Monday, May 07, 2012

Act of God, a Review

Paul Byers' Act of God is a collection of seven short stories in the vein of old Rod Sterling Twilight Zone episodes.  Most of these tales are sci-fi related, though all are "soft" and easy to read.  I was asked to review the book by Mr. Byers himself, and I thought the stories sounded appealing.  As I like to do with anthologies, I've reviewed each story below, using the GoodReads Star Rating for each piece, boldfacing my recommendations.

"Shooting Star"
Evan Grant is a astronaut, a devoted husband and father, and he always keeps his promises. The day that he is to make a routine space flight for research Evan finds out that he is going on a different mission. He'll be flying instead a bit farther away, where he'll connect with a floating, broken cargo ship and try and salvage its priceless cargo. Murphy's Law applies to this story and to Evan, and I felt like I had to really suspend my disbelief a fair bit, but this was a great piece to start the collection. 3.5*

"Rescue Mission"
A Commander in charge of a simple rescue mission to a distant planet finds out that the mission is more than "simple." The Commander's second-in-command, Jerrock, constantly threatens to usurp orders, and this mission is no different. This story was very clunky in some parts, and I felt that there was too much telling and not enough showing. However, the tale was short and enjoyable enough, and the ending was certainly a surprise. 3*

"The Journal" was both frustrating and fun. The dialogue seemed very clunky between the three friends, and I felt that the plot pushed ahead too quickly for the full impact to sink in. I was left with many questions, one primary one reducing my overall enjoyment of this story. Probably my least favorite of the lot. 2*

"All that Glitters" was somewhat reminiscent of "Rescue Mission," as there is some hefty tension between a ship's captain and his chief sub-officer. However, where "Rescue Mission" was focused on a rescue attempt, "All that Glitters" had a crew of astronauts who were in the mining business. The captain orders a stop to scout out an uncharted world hoping to find enough minerals and gems to make him a rich man. What he finds is something else entirely. 2.5*

This was a familiar and predictable fun story, with a twist that I saw coming a mile and a half away. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the way it was written and felt that the mood it exudes was fitting and exciting. 3*

"Act of God"
This is definitely my favorite short in the collection. The tale is a familiar one: a disaster wipes out a food supply for a group of people, and in order to survive they begin a lottery system among the population. Those selected will, uhm, presumably become ground, uhm, foodstuff. That's not explicitly said or described, but certainly inferred. Anyway, this story was compelling, fast-paced, and ended on an excellent note that left me pondering my choices. I also felt that it was the best written piece of the lot. 4.5*

"Eye of the Beholder"
There was a lot of build up for this story. The author was being intentionally vague and withholding, constantly referring to things familiar but unsaid. The love story angle between the characters was also clunky and bland. That said, the piece moved along at an adequate pace that led a conclusion/climax so bizarre, so unexpected that I can't help but recommend this story. If only for the oddity of the outcome. It's guaranteed to make you scratch your head, roll your eyes, and laugh. 4*

Ultimately, an arithmetic mean of the GR-Stars gives a rating of 3.2, putting it solidly in the "Liked" category.  The formatting for the Kindle left a lot to be desired, especially for paragraph breaks and dialogue splitting.  The prose also was also all over the place, from confusing to clear and well worded.  Nevertheless, the stories were all enjoyable to varying degree, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read them.  If you're looking for a relatively light sci-fi short story collection, consider Paul Byers' Act of God.  It's available through Amazon as a $2.99 ebook currently, though it's free to Prime members.  You can find it here.  

FTC Thingy: No one ever sends me cookies.  I don't know why that is.  I'm not bitter or anything.  I received this book for free from Mr. Paul Byers in exchange for a review.  I was not obligated to laud praises on the book, nor was I under an oath to heap coals.  My review policy has always been to review honestly and express how I feel while remaining respectful and fair.  I am a man of integrity, though I'm not a fool.  If I were offered fresh cookies and a book, I might be willing to compromise my ethics.  As such, no cookies were exchanged, and so I gave only an honest book review.  Such is life.


Diz said...

I'm glad you remain true to yourself - sans cookies, of course.

logankstewart said...

What can I say? I know my weakness. ;)