1 out of 4 stars
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It can be said that the true art of science fiction is rendering the unreal plausible; capable sci-fi writers take 'what ifs', make them real, and captivate us. In his novel, SUPERHIGHWAY, Alex Fayman, presumably, asked himself, "What if someone succeeds in traveling from one location to another through Internet cables?" and spins us the first volume of his Superhighway Trilogy in which, Alex Fine, a teenager who was dropped off at an orphanage as a baby, discovers a unique ability: If he holds the plug of a cable out of a computer, he can travel through the internet. He also discovers that he comes out at the last location browsed on a computer. And there’s more: As he moves through corridors of blinking of lights, he sees digitized information of every type that he can absorb and use to his own advantage: ‘Manipulating records was easy. It was likely a simpler operation for me inside of the digital archive than for a bank employee seated in front of a computer. She would have to use a keyboard, a mouse, computer software, and her deep understanding of the bank’s programs in order to accomplish something I could do by simply making a mental request, which was fulfilled in real time.’
And so, Alex uses his newly-discovered abilities to infiltrate the network of international mega criminals. One outstanding individual he affects is Genadiy Sverdlovski, a very powerful and dangerous, arms-dealing Russian oligarch with connections to the Soviet Government. Alex taps billions of dollars from the Russian and disrupts his criminal empire. Throughout the book, however, Alex who becomes a super-rich, teenage playboy philanthropist helps the unfortunate in the USA and beyond. But he seems only slightly concerned about reprisals from the Russian oligarch. Alex lives and grows through his experiences: He falls in love, struggles with teenage-like impulsiveness, experiences heartbreak, and continues to be resilient in the face of all that comes his way. But what most of us read for, is not there: richly woven conflict and resolution. This novel runs on and on, mundanely, about what Alex Fine does and experiences. There is little information on how Genadiy Sverdlovski feels about whoever has crossed him. We wait for the author to weave Sverdlovski meaningfully into the plot in order to treat us to a nail-biting conflict and the hope of a rewarding climax. But there are no such developments.
Further: As I read, thoughts plagued me: This kid is only a teenager with no significant academic background or degrees in financial management; how then does he know so much about the intricacies of cyber commerce to be able to devastate the online accounts of financial behemoths? But then I acquiesced: Maybe he becomes an all-knowing super computer in his own right. Then I questioned his peculiar ability: How can a human body travel through internet cables? This isn’t convincing sci-fi. The answer comes in Chapter 33 (of a forty-six-chapter book.) It is reveals that, genetically, Alex has inherited his uncanny ability from his dead dad who was involved in a controversial CIA project that succeed in electroportation, a process that makes it possible for a human to travel through electrical cables. Maybe the author should have made a part of Chapter 33 into a prologue, even if veiled, thereby grounding the reader and making the earlier sections of the book more believable.
The crafting of this novel is not outstanding in any significant way. The writer’s style does not draw attention to itself. Same with the language: it will work for every level of reader; it does not call for a dictionary at the elbow or a glossary. The characterizations in this work, however, stand out. The novel is peopled by characters that come over as real. As for pace, this novel’s relatively short chapters move the story along quickly.
In closing, this is my takeaway: SUPERHIGHWAY by Alex Fayman is the first volume of a trilogy that will interest any avid sci-fi reader. Because of its mundane flow, however, and the early doubts I felt about Alex’s uncanny ability, it loses one star. This novel does not have a climax; as such, a reader must buy the second (or maybe the final volume?) for its culmination. For that, it loses two more stars. One star, however, must be awarded for the author’s well-written characterizations of the teenage protagonist and the individuals he interacts with. I give this book 1 out of 4 stars.
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