2 out of 4 stars
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In the 30th Century, Earth’s inhabitants include humans that have been genetically altered, known as the Syndos, and those who have not had such modifications, know as the Naturals. Due to a genetic error within the original Syndos, these beings have no moral compass. Without a sense of morality, they have become a threat to the very lives of the Naturals. Fearing possible extinction, Captain Jennifer Hero devises a plan to save her fellow Naturals from this terrible fate. She is leading a task force whose mission is to travel back in time 300 years in order to plant a virus that is supposed to correct the genetic error that occurred within those first Syndos. Unknown to her crew, which includes her best friend and occasional lover, Captain Hero has no intention to accompany the team on its mission. During an intense missile attack, Captain Hero claims that the system is damaged, and that she must send her crew back manually and without her. Once this is done, Jennifer travels back alone to the year 2015, where she can finally grieve the loss of her love, Professor Zexton Ho, who was assassinated five years earlier. He is also the creator of the time traveling device. Jennifer also hopes that she is able to find herself and start anew amongst those in the 21st Century.
After spending months alone living off of the land and sea, Jennifer is rescued from the radioactive atoll of Moruroa by marine biologist Marty Zitonick and his crew. Using amnesia as a cover story, Jennifer begins her new life and journey in the 21st Century. Will she be able to hide her superior intellect and nanotech-enhanced abilities, even in the face of perceived danger? Will her liberal attitude toward sex hinder her from developing a lasting and satisfying relationship? Will she be able to forgive herself and move on after abandoning her crew in the 30th Century? Mark Kingston Levin brings us along for this journey with Jennifer Hero in his science-fiction novel, 30th Century: Escape, which is the first in its trilogy.
Published in June of 2015, the bulk of this novel’s 390 pages covers Jennifer’s adjustment to the 21st Century. What should have been a more difficult adjustment is made easier for Jennifer when her new identity is practically gift wrapped and handed to her. Apparently, a young lady with the same name and appearance, and similar skills, likes, and dislikes has previously gone missing, along with her parents. This not only gives our 30th Century Jennifer a more solid backstory, it also provides for an incredible safety net in the form of helpful contacts and a large trust fund. While Jennifer might feel bad initially for piggybacking off of another’s identity and money, she does not feel bad enough to learn to do her own hair and make-up rather than paying a stylist or beautician to do it.
While making my way through the novel, I can easily see several themes being explored throughout. Some shed a positive light on the story, while others do just the opposite. Examples of each include survival and deception. These two themes are pretty constant, with examples popping up from beginning to end. Jennifer shows off her survival skills while stranded for months as a sort of castaway on a radioactive atoll. She again gets to flex her survival muscles after an earthquake traps her and a friend in a lava tube. The author uses the theme of deception to highlight the less attractive side of our protagonist. In the 30th Century, Captain Jennifer Hero allows her team to believe she will accompany them on their mission to save the human race. She instead abandons them at the last minute, allowing them to believe she has died in the missile attack. Even in the 21st Century she deceives those closest to her as she slips into a life not her own after feigning amnesia upon being rescued. Also of great importance throughout this novel are the themes of technology, love, and bravery, among several others.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the author’s ability to skillfully set a scene. This is particularly important in a novel such as this, where the characters are constantly exploring and enjoying different areas. Aside from the over abundance of “Alohas,” the various islands are described beautifully. Underwater scenes come to life. Fishing, sailing, and snorkeling are more than simple activities. The beauty and danger of the underground tubes and tunnels can be both seen and felt. The meals aren’t just meals, they are mouthwatering events. This is definitely an area where Mark Kingston Levin excels.
Unfortunately, beyond these wonderful descriptions, I am truly struggling with this novel. I want to like this book, and I have honestly tried. It holds so much potential in the beginning, but then it never quite delivers. Other than Jennifer, the characters are somewhat underdeveloped, and I never quite make a connection with any; I simply cannot relate. Interactions between characters feel forced, and the dialogue is often robotic. At several points in my reading, I am left wondering where the story is going. The plot line is scattered and unclear. There are too few science fiction elements after the first chapter, and once Marty and his crew rescue Jennifer, there is really no more actual conflict, and thus no satisfying conflict resolution. Instead, everything seems to constantly and unrealistically work out in Jennifer’s favor. Even the “plot twist” at the end is a convenient way to tie up loose ends without Jennifer actually having to own up to her lies.
After all of that, I still have not discussed the elephant in the room, the numerous and explicit sex scenes. The scenes are not a surprise to me, as the author is open and upfront in the novel’s description about its mature content. I cannot seamlessly add my opinions of these scenes to my review any more than the author can seamlessly add the actual scenes to his novel. They are entirely out of place, and do not advance the plot. Honestly, I find the scenes somewhat offensive due to their stereotypical nature in approach.
All in all, I give this novel 2 out of 4 stars. My dislike for Jennifer is irrelevant. No single character will be embraced by all readers. While I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the different settings, this does not make up for the scattered and undefined plot line, the grammatical errors, or the forced dialogue. I think this novel has an audience, I’m just not sure if that audience includes fans of science fiction. If the book were placed in a more relevant genre, it would have a better chance of attracting the right audience.
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