There is a trap that SF is always in danger of falling into – that of the too-weird, too-ridiculous, too-far-fetched. At the best of times it’s a genre that –whether in movies, TV series’ or novels- dances on the knife-edge between ‘Oh, okay, I understand that, it’s pretty cool!’ and ‘Huh? I don’t get it.’ Not to mention that any SF runs the risk of retreading old territory without doing it in a new and interesting way – sort of like what the movie Carnivore was to Jurassic Park.
It’s not often that an author not only manages to straddle that line between believability and wonder but also comes across as truly imaginative, and I’m pleased to report the S. Spencer Baker is such an author.
When I first heard of the book (thanks to Joe Bailey of Blip Publishing), I seriously thought that I was going to get a below-standard (in terms of physical quality) product binding a clunky, poorly edited story that wasn’t going to be particularly inventive – yep, that all flew out the window as soon as I opened the book. 🙂
That’s the first thing that struck me about the book (other than the strange yet beautiful cover artwork) – the fact that it doesn’t start the way a book usually does: you know, with a full page or half a page of text. Not so with this book – you open it up and it sort of yanks your attention, just because what you expect to be there on the first page (where the story starts, should I say) isn’t there. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that it’s misprinted – I thought so, too. But then I started reading, and continued reading, until eventually this book that came out of nowhere from a publisher I hadn’t heard of before had my utter and complete attention.
The main character (it’s his fault some of the pages are blank in the beginning; you’ll understand why) wakes up and is served by a nurse that walks through walls. As the story continues we find out more about him – who he actually is, how he came to be where he is, etc. And as he journey’s through the book the author manages to make his awakening –regarding how to learn to use his body, how he reacts in certain situations and the odd thoughts that pop into his mind- interesting as well as humorous; there were plenty of scenes where I laughed out loud or had to force myself to have a discreet giggle.
Once he’s in place the world that the author has created – the Slab – opens up exponentially; it’s obvious to me that plenty of thought went into creating the world of the Slab, and it shows in the myriad cultures that are unveiled, the philosophies of these cultures, the technology in the Slab, etc. The world-building is not only thoughtful and interesting but also actually makes sense, in the context of the story. But the characters don’t suffer at the expense of the world-building, either. 🙂
One thing I have to stress – this is one of those books wherein red herrings and sleight of hand abound: the author skillfully led me along, opening up myriad plot threads –and keeping me interested in them all- and then bringing everything together at the end to create a complex, entertaining and wonderful climax. I had no clue that things would turn out the way they did, though in retrospect, humanity being what it is, and the Slab being what it is, the rule of ‘anything can and will happen’ is too true. 🙂
This book has a bit of everything – a high-tech, far-future premise, entertaining characters, humour in spades, a definite satirical edge and a satisfying and entertaining ending. I’m glad I got the chance to read this book and I definitely count myself among S. Spencer Baker’s fans. 🙂
Highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to book 2!
9 / 10
To order your copies of Slabscape: Reset, click here to order the eBook from the publisher, here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and if you’re in South Africa get to an Exclusive Books branch and ask them to order a copy for you. If you want more info about the book and the world of the Slab, click here. There’s also a Facebook Page, so join it and spread the word. 🙂