Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Exchange

Title: Exchange
Author: Dale Cozort
Genre: science fiction
Price: $16.95
Publisher: Stairway Press
ISBN: 978-0975431474
Point of Sale: publisher Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’ve met Dale Cozort in various science fiction fandom events here in Chicago over the years. When I ran into him a few weeks ago, he said “I got a book published!” To which I reply, “I review books!” This resulted in me leaving the event with a free copy of his novel Exchange.

The story is set in and around Rockport, Illinois in the immediate future. For reasons unexplained and apparently not well understood, random chunks of our Earth are “exchanged” with the same piece of Earth in a different timeline – one in which the large mammals of the Pleistocene didn’t die off, and humans apparently did, leading to the Exchanged areas being referred to as Bear Country. As in, lots of lions and tigers and bears. These areas revert back to their previous timeline in a matter of days or weeks, further complicating matters.

The story opens with Sharon Mack, a young single mother, getting stuck inside the Exchange boundary and thus being sent into the Bear Country reality. Fortunately, she’s not alone – a number of US Marines and others are going with. Unfortunately, those others include her violent and anti-social ex-husband, who wants to take their seven-year-old special needs daughter Bethany with him as he tries to set up housekeeping in Bear Country land that’s not returning to our timeline. We meet him when he crowns Sharon with a whiskey bottle at the start of Chapter 2, setting up attempts by Sharon to get her daughter back. This personal drama, although gripping and interesting, isn’t the only thing going on in Bear Country, as Sharon discovers during her quest.

I like Dale, and I found the book engaging and entertaining, but I do have some issues with the editing. Editing runs on a spectrum from line to story editing. Line editing is grammar, spelling and punctuation, while story editing focuses on the authorial decisions in telling the story. I felt that Dale’s editor fell a bit short on the story editing side of the ledger. There were several instances of “maid and butler” dialog, including early on when the local radio station was busily explaining to those inside what had happened to them. Also, I was repeatedly told how big the Exchanged area was, something I didn’t need to be told so often.

There were also some nits with the story that may fall on Dale’s head, not his editor’s. First, there were a lot of guns in the story, but they were never described as other than pistol or rifle. This really bothered me, especially when at one point somebody substituted an unloaded gun for a loaded one. Without knowing if it was a revolver or a semi-auto, I found it difficult to see how the substitution was made. Second, on several occasions, Sharon got snuck up on from behind. I found that a bit difficult to swallow, especially for people moving in woods and grasslands.

Having said all of that, I enjoyed Exchange, and found it well worth the read.
Rating: 7/10

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