Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Book review: Certain Hypothetical by James Litherland (bonus review: Durable Impressions)

"Certain Hypothetical (Book 1 of the Slowpocalypse series)" by James Litherland follows David Belue as he and others who live within the compound prepare for a hypothetical attack from the outside. But there is more than it seems, and when the director's daughter, Kat, begins her own investigation into the impending seige their lives are unexpectedly at risk. They must each discover who within the compound is leaking information to the outside before it's too late.
To be honest, I really have no idea what to say about this novel. There really didn't seem to be a plot, despite the summary I gave above. What plot there was seemed to be slapped together like it was added in afterwards. The book talks about people who live in a compound, and while I know there's a perimeter wall, and gates, and various buildings, it takes nearly half the novel before you realize the compound is probably around the size of a town or full city. When the word compound is used, a much smaller piece of land is generally imagined. But the city is run or owned by FURC. We're never told what that stands for, and it's used in various forms (FedU, FURCsnet, FURCS pad, etc) which doesn't make any of it easier. With sci-fi, an acronym is generally explained at least once to let the reader into the world that's been created.
Most of the characters aren't even that likeable either. From the start the characters do really illogical things, or at least they give no reason for them. I think David was rather odd, and highly unlikeable. There were times I had to stop reading because his actions were just so aggravating. His paranoia came from absolutely no where. Perhaps it was justified based on what has happened in his world, but I wasn't privy to any of that history. His "investigation" consisted of following people (largely unsuccessfully, as he admits) and apparently this was enough to put together the pieces of a conspiracy. And then he always seemed tired. He was either following someone, or complaining about needing sleep, or sleeping for days. Literally. I've never read a novel that described a character sleeping so often, or at least pointing it out and making it a focal point. If that was meant as a defining feature of the character, it was an odd choice.
The only character I liked was Kat. She knows how to hold her own, has (dysfunctional) relationships, and we can actually see passion with her that is absent with David. But then something incredibly traumatic happens to her, and she brushes it off, barely thinking about it afterward. When something like that happens, or when someone does something so extreme, it has a psychological effect on a person. Unless you're a psychopath.
There were deleted scenes/bonus material stuck onto the end of the novel, which while I read it, I will not review. Deleted scenes are deleted for a reason. They gave some good information, but it should have been within the novel itself.
This novel has huge potential. There's so much to know about this dystopian world, and the people. I realize this is the first in a series, but I don't know enough about the compound to care if it gets taken over. I think the potential would give me enough motivation to read the rest in the series, but that shouldn't really be the reason to read it. Don't get me wrong: this is not a terrible book by any means. It's definitely not my taste, as I need a bit more to get me clambering for the next book in the series.
Bonus review: Durable Impressions (short prequel to the Slowpocalypse series)
I highly recommend people to read this one first. It's a shame it was published afterwards, as it explains a bit more about the FURC compound and actually gives more details about character details (such as Kat and Tony's relative ages.) Still no explanation of FURC though. I'm glad I read this, although it seems rather odd and short. Litherland was right to not insert it into Certain Hypothetical, but the novel really would have benefited from the extra knowledge gleaned from this short prequel. It also ends abruptly, and left me wanting more. Which is a moderately good thing.
In general, Litherland has obviously created an interesting world in these two works. You can tell there are some really rough things happening in the United States causing riots, and everyone lives in constant paranoia. I would have loved to get at least a little more insight as to what the big deal was, and maybe it's explained later in the series but for me it's not enough to get me to read the following books. I'm pretty impressed with Kat's character. She's strong, passionate, and not once needed help from anyone else. I'm glad Durable Impressions gave me more of her background.

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