2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
John J. Staughton
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I have been a science fiction and fantasy reader for years, and one of the most important elements of any good science fiction story is its ability to completely absorb the reader into a new world. You see that epitomized in Tolkien's creation of Middle Earth, replete with everything you could possibly imagine, all the way down to dead languages and colloquial jokes. Science fiction, rather than fantasy, is often based on some sort of futuristic version of life that we understand, with Earth as a distant setting, or at least as a part of the universe. I feel like Chapman tried to create a new world, and incorporate recognizable elements, like names of cities(i.e. New Rome), and reference to various areas so readers would understand that the book is set in some post-apocalyptic, or at least distant, future. However, it isn't fair to simply assume a reader will accept your premise blindly. Creating a back story to your story is essential before a reader will truly dig his heels in and get comfortable with the fantasy that you've created. To return to Tolkien, he built an entire system of myth and legend to legitimize his equally fictitious setting, just so the readers would feel seamlessly transported. In Ripple, I unfortunately felt dropped into an unexplained future with vague hints of it being related to my home planet of Earth.
On the other side of that, I liked how Chapman dove into the story quickly, with a journalistic angle to give us the sensation of a complete and functioning world that we were reading about. I liked the press release elements that pushed the plot forward, hinted at things to come, and did quite a bit of exposition, since exposition and unexciting (yet necessary) plot points are often boring when it comes right from the author's pen. What isn't boring is exposition about characters who I am about to invest in for 200 pages, and I will touch on that lacking point momentarily.
The plot was also original, to a point, and the characters felt real. They spoke, joked, and reacted to things like real people in stressful situations, rather than imaginary characters and stock profile "heroes" in the author's mind. That being said, there wasn't enough character development, and to become fully invested in them, particularly Ryo, Keira, and Lev, I needed something that made me care. I enjoy being shown why a character does something, rather than being told. It goes back to my critique on the setting and futuristic angle. Show me the reality you are trying to paint, don't load me down with 8 sentences of dense exposition and then let those be the guiding principles for every other action and interaction of the players.
That sounded somewhat negative, but in truth, I did enjoy reading the book. The scientific elements were compelling and well thought out, and even the terminology and events seemed real enough (if we were already living around the year 2450). Creating drama and interesting character profiles for books set in modern times is difficult as it is, let alone adding the complexity of living in space 400 years from now. However, that is the challenge of writing really good science fiction - making me care about someone that I can't relate to on very many points. All criticism aside, I can see that Chapman is a talented writer with an eminently creative mind; perhaps he needs to redirect some of his eclecticism and prolificity into less projects rather than more. I think he could flesh out a truly magical world if he filled in a few more of the blanks and sought to engage the reader with his imagination, rather than simply firing out his ideas and hoping we catch and appreciate a few.
I'll definitely read the follow up novel, and I would pass this on to any other science fiction lovers I know; it is definitely a well-written book, it just had the potential to be something even greater.