3 out of 4 stars
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Chrome Mountain is the story of Sonya McCall and Trey Radisson, two lost souls in desperate need of a purpose in their lives. Sonya is a former member of the Screamon Demons, an outlaw biker gang, while Trey is an inventor and engineer whose work has the potential to change the world if he can only push past his fears. When Sonya and Trey are drawn into the affairs of the merciless terrorist organization known as Chrome Falcon, their lives begin to change. Working alongside government forces, Trey and Sonya become the keys to take down this evil and startlingly powerful adversary.
A fast-paced sci-fi thriller, Chrome Mountain is set in the near future – a world where a novel new technology in the hands of terrorists is a threat of global significance. As a thriller, the novel is filled with action sequences, including fight scenes, numerous car chases, and lots of explosions. It is in these scenes that the story excels. The action is well-paced, with extensive detail designed to draw the reader in. There are also a number of well-placed comedic moments that help to break up the action sequences. For example, there is the moment when a police car lands in a packed football stadium, as well as the shopping mall chase finale.
However, despite its structure as a thriller, Chrome Mountain is at its core a love story. Both Sonya and Trey, despite their messy romantic pasts, are drawn to each other from the very beginning. Then, throughout the book, it becomes increasingly clear that their growing relationship is intended to be the heart of the tale. Indeed, Schneider ensures that his leads have more than just a physical connection bringing them together by giving them time to grow into a close friendship by spreading out the action over a number of months.
Beyond Sonya and Trey’s relationship, another key component in Chrome Mountain is the concept of redemption. Specifically, the story of Trey and Sonya is also the story of their return to the faith of their childhoods. Sonya’s foray into religion is a direct response to her past with the Screamon Demons. She wants to atone for her sins, and when Trey falls into her life protecting him becomes her mission from God. It is Sonya’s faith that leads to Trey’s, as she helps him cope with his intense guilt complex. He blames himself for the deaths caused by Chrome Falcon’s pursuit, a fact that pushes him from depressed to suicidal. Eventually, though, he embraces faith in God as a solution to his mental anguish. Readers who are comfortable with overtly religious overtones will have no problem, but others may be turned off by this aspect of the story.
Despite its thrilling narrative and exciting action sequences, Chrome Mountain is not without its faults. On the writing side, Schneider has a fondness for showing off his extensive vocabulary, sometimes to the detriment of the story. For example, he seems to prefer the word ‘albeit’ over more common words like ‘although’ or ‘after’, using the word in excess in his descriptive passages. Another odd writing choice present is the use of font names such as ‘Algerian text’ as descriptors for signs, logos, etc.
On the narrative side, Chrome Mountain suffers from two major weaknesses. One is the presence of a secondary plot – Sonya’s history with the Screamon Demons – that has little to no impact on the primary plot beyond providing justification for Sonya’s choices. While Sonya’s history does make her a more interesting character, Schneider would have been better served by keeping the Screamon Demons in the past. Instead, the interludes with the Screamon Demons and the mess with Levi feel tacked on and break the flow of the primary plot, the conflict with Chrome Falcon.
The second narrative weakness of Chrome Mountain is the fact that Trey and Sonya are the only complex characters present in the story. Every other character they encounter is essentially one-dimensional. The villains, such as Sonya’s ex-boyfriend Levi North and his gang and the members of Chrome Falcon, who could be more complex given their time ‘on-screen’, are not. Instead, they are all stereotypically evil with no redeeming qualities. Many of them are also utter idiots whose active dismissal of human life make them far too easy to hate. On the other side, the allies which come alongside Trey and Sonya to help them in their fight are often little more than place-holders. In fact, most of these secondary characters are more defined in their physical appearance than in any other respect.
In the end, Chrome Mountain is a novel that fits a particular type. It is a sci-fi thriller which is targeted towards an adult male audience who don’t mind an explicitly Christian message. The well-choreographed action sequences featuring extensive and well-researched location-based detail manage to pull the reader into the fictional world of Chrome Mountain. Meanwhile, the beautiful and tough Sonya and the sensitive and clever Trey make a wonderful match as an odd-couple that find each other despite the incredible odds. But, for those who prefer a more intellectually complex story, there are a number of elements that make Chrome Mountain less attractive. These include the unrealistic science of Trey’s VV1 and Chrome Falcon’s Green Gates, the story’s black-and-white narrative of good versus unqualified evil, the un-integrated secondary plot, and the overly pat ending. It is these flaws that lead me to give Chrome Mountain a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.
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