Book Review: POP TRAVEL and SIMULATION

Today we take a turn for the sci-fi with Tara Tyler’s “Cooper Chronicles”, a (for the moment) two-book series about a private detective 80 years in the future who gets mixed up in conspiracies and scandals. The first book, POP TRAVEL, involves issues with transporter-like teleportation tech, and the second, new-release SIMULATION, has to do with body-snatching androids. Spoilers ahead.

Sept Review tour

Before I dive into my thoughts on these stories, I would like to remind everyone of this beautiful quote from the Pixar masterpiece “Ratatouille”:

‘In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

I don’t enjoy publishing negative criticism anymore than I enjoy being criticized, for once the vitriol has died down I just feel bad. I do, however, believe in giving an honest opinion of someone’s work.

So all that said…..

These texts violate what are in my mind the most basic guidelines for writing a good–nay, a decent–book. There is no showing, only telling. The dialogue and symbolic language are wooden and cliche. The characters are so two-dimensional they are an insult to the idea of cardboard. Continuity errors for both plot and characterization abound–one paragraph someone is said to be an exception to the “all politicians are slimy” trope, the next paragraph they are criticized for being a slimy politician. That’s not complexity, that’s just lazy. In each book there isn’t enough plot to justify the 300+ pages, and so what is meant to be suspenseful turned into a slog, with me flipping pages and skimming to the end. If this book was a movie, it would be a multi-million dollar B-list spy romp, probably worthy of the “so bad it’s good” moniker. But alas it is a book, and I am left wondering what the heck the whole point was.

In fact, I have to wonder if anyone sat down and thought about the plot of the first book, in particular. The whole shtick is that transporter technology has superseded airplanes, but that ‘frequent fliers’ are developing serious headaches and then dying in a puff of glitter, which is being covered up by the Powers That Be.

No, really. Glitter.

But half-way through the text, one character examines his ‘pop travel’ ticket, and on it, in big bold letters, it says:

“It is strongly recommended you DO NOT POP if you are: pregnant,epileptic or have been experiencing frequent migraines or seizures.” P. 116

It’s in the disclaimer! I’m sorry, but it’s not a conspiracy if the thing that’s supposedly an issue is written on the tickets for every traveler to see. That’s like car companies getting in trouble for people driving drunk! It completely doesn’t make sense, and it destroys any shred of credibility for the plot.

On a deeper level, the things that make science fiction and fantasy work are–as I said yesterday–the dedication to the world building. You can’t just throw a bunch of future-tech like robots into the current world and expect your book-verse to make sense. No! Look at something like LOCK IN by John Scalzi, or FEED by Mira Grant–both excellent books that really dive into the culture and society of worlds scarred by disaster and rebuilt anew, based in ideas and technology that we, the readers recognize but don’t currently have. How has the existence of a new technology changed the way we talk? The way we live? What does that say about deeper human nature?

All that is hard to imagine, harder to write, and hardest of all to write well, but that doesn’t mean I give anyone a pass just for trying–doubly so if their made-up science is laughably bad.There are enough people in the world who put down fantasy and sci-fi for not being ‘serious’ or ‘meaningful’ or ‘real literature’. Let’s not give them any help.

Available on Amazon , should you ignore my advice.

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