4 out of 4 stars
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Have you ever picked up a book to read, only to find yourself totally swept up into the whirlwind of events happening inside it? It no longer remains just a book. You literally become part and parcel of the action, similar to what happened to Alice when she peered through that looking glass or went down that rabbit hole or in the Children’s Classic, Alice in Wonderland. Such was my experience with Ben Schneider’s Chrome Mountain. I dared to step out of my comfort zone by selecting a Sci-Fi book to review, and my stroke of courage was delightfully rewarded.
The drama takes off right from page 1, where the curtains open on our first protagonist, young Sonya on the run on her motorbike. She’s done with the city of Sacramento and the Screamon Demons, a biking gang she’d been part of for the past five years but which had now gotten too barbaric for her comfort. Soon enough we get to meet Trey, a middle aged scientist simply trying to get some excitement into his otherwise monotonous, geeky life. Trey’s genius drives him to invent a sophisticated cloak he christens VV1 - Vanisher Version 1. Whatever it rests on becomes invisible, though it is still present physically. However, due to a number of unsightly premonitions he gets about the invention getting in the wrong hands and causing wanton destruction on earth, his conscience compels him to destroy his prototype plus all its notes. His girlfriend Zuri is not too happy to hear this, and abruptly deserts him.
Trey’s and Sonya’s paths cross one night when just in the nick of time, she saves him from getting captured by the Chrome Falcon – a notorious terrorist division that seems too invincible even for the whole US government defense forces. Poor Trey has no idea why such a formidable force would be interested in him, nor why such a beauty would risk her life just to save him. But the Chrome Falcon aren’t done with him yet – the next time they come for him they capture both him and Sonya, but not before triggering a spate of dramatic events that make the media speculate that he and Sonya are part of their detestable faction, sealing the duo’s fate as the most wanted and most hated in America.
What are the chances that they will wriggle themselves out of this mess - two mere individuals against an entire massive terrorist faction? Will they ever be able to clear their names in the public eye? Most importantly, will they be able to stop the Chrome Falcon before they execute their evil mission – to forcefully take over control of US and the world? Narrated in the third person from the perspective of both Trey and Sonya, the strong themes that emerge from this account are those of integrity and courage. There are powerful recurring messages throughout the narrative that it doesn’t pay to become a law-breaker or rebel; on the contrary, it is highly reputable to fight for and defend the honor of your country.
Looking to God as the source of direction, strength, and wisdom is also consistently brought out within the story. This aspect can scarcely be trivialized at all. The pair absolutely needed intervention beyond the natural if at all they were to make it out of their ordeals alive. During one particularly gloomy moment, a discussion ensued about death and what happens thereafter. It was a comfort to them to realize that if they turned their lives to Jesus, they would look forward to Heaven after they die. The beauty of this was that it all played out in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way, but respectfully as the sincere convictions of the characters.
For all the positive accolades, I have to say that there were a number of things about the story that didn’t really sit well with me. The most glaring one was the extent of the reckless, rampant destruction of lives and property each time there was a clash with the Chrome Falcon. In one incident, an entire staff in a bank were annihilated during a robbery; separately, the electricity of a whole city was put out in the midst of commotion; yet again, a whole forest was torched in the process of capturing one person; but the worst for me was a whole city basically getting trashed and thousands of people losing their lives in a good-guys-versus-bad-guys chase. I actually had to stop and ponder the sheer magnitude of this loss at that point in the story. I wish the narrative showed more regard to the value of human life, property and our natural resources during those instances.
I also did not enjoy how almost everyone in the cast wielded one type of firearm or another. Granted, it was a story focused on preventing a hostile take-over of the world by evil terrorists, but maybe the use of firearms should have been limited to the law enforcement agents and if possible, only in response to attack by the terrorists. However, there could also be an issue of culture at play here: I am made to understand that in America almost any adult can acquire a license to bear and use a firearm. Still, in my humble view, it should not be flaunted as the ideal thing to do.
I did find a few editorial mishaps, though not glaring enough to detract from the excellence of this piece of work.
In conclusion, suffice it to say that the author showed great prowess in his writing abilities. His imagination is top notch and he is an expert story teller. I give this work a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
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