Book Review – Crystal Eyes by Allen Donnelly
The people of Earth have achieved, if not a utopia, then at least a reasonably comfortable existence. There is still a great divide between rich and poor but no one starves. Everyone can get medical attention. No one has to live on the streets. Humans are just beginning to break their ties with Earth and establish a foothold in space. But then a massive and inexplicable solar flare erupts, destroying all electrical equipment out to the farthest reaches of the solar system and irradiating the Earth, causing mutations both hideous and fantastic.
But life is tenacious and humanity goes on. A new religion is born, the Solanists, worshipers of the Sun that has wreaked its vengeance upon mankind. They become dominant, at least in the portion of North America in which the story is set. They impose order and, with a religious fervor not seen since the Inquisition, seek to cleanse the world of evil.
It is in this post-apocalyptic, Wild West world that Christine is born. She’s a demon. At least that is what the Solanists call her and the other mutants. Unlike many others, Christine’s deformities are not immediately obvious. Other than a ghostly pale complexion, one would not know she is a demon – that is, not until she opens her eyes of dark, faceted crystal.
And that is all I will say about the plot to avoid spoilers. Now I’ll talk about what I liked about the book and what I think might be seen as detractors.
First of all, the characters are wonderful. You immediately feel sympathy with the main character, Christine, who will eventually be known as Crystal or Crystal Eyes. She is the heroine of the story and becomes almost a mythic and inspirational figure to those oppressed by the rigid Solanists. She has amazing abilities but she is not invincible. To compare her to comic book heroes, she is more Spiderman than Superman. She is a loner until she meets up with two companions, a relatively suave but impetuous rogue named Drake and a quiet and thoughtful giant of a man named Tarak. They remind me of Inigo and Fezzik from The Princess Bride.
The prose style is remarkably good with just enough description to convey the look and feel of the setting without going overboard into literary extremes. This is an action adventure but the author wisely avoids graphic descriptions of the violence. He is not out to shock or disgust his readers. There are several scenes of violent and deadly confrontation but he does not dwell on the dripping blood and gore that result. There is no need. The story is more than strong enough to hold your attention without urging you to toss your cookies.
Which brings me to the plot once again. This is your basic good, oppressed minority fighting against a strong, oppressive majority kind of story. Yeah, that’s been done thousands of times but when the story is imaginative, when it has likeable characters, when the setting is believable, then it’s the kind of story we enjoy reading. This one is.
Okay, now for the stuff that might be considered detractors. The book begins with a prologue that provides the backstory of what human civilization was like before the solar flare. This is seldom advisable but I think it may have been necessary for this story. It heightens the reader’s appreciation for what has been lost. Still, there is a fair amount of backstory, interesting though it may be, to slog through before chapter one.
At the beginning, the Solanists are almost too evil. They seem to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But as the story progresses, the author starts to humanize them. They are no longer cookie cutter bad guys.
The only other thing of note on the negative side that I saw was a few typos that escaped the editing process. There were not enough to detract from the story and, given that this is a self published novel and that it carries an extremely low price because of that, I find these easy to forgive.
I am not normally a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction because it is often fairly depressing. This is not. Yes, there has been a catastrophe and humanity is being held under the thumb of small minded and often sadistic zealots but there is resistance and most people are portrayed, realistically, as fairly decent folks just trying to get by. When the last page is read, you feel hopeful that the world described in the prologue can eventually be reborn.
My overall rating for this book is 4.8 stars and I recommend it.
Full disclosure: I was given a free download of this book by the author with no strings attached. I am doing this review because it is a damn good story. I hope he writes more.
Posted on December 6, 2011, in 5 Star Reviews, Book Reviews, Science Fiction and tagged Allen Donnelly, Book review, Crystal Eyes, indie, post-apocalyptic fiction, science fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.