Joe Stanton is an average, 28-year-old pastor staying with his stunningly beautiful girlfriend Ella at a motel by the beach one normal weekend. Suddenly, he wakes up screaming for a daughter he never had, and his entire life goes to turmoil. This girl isn’t his daughter, but she is someone– or something– else’s, and that someone is now inhabiting Joe’s mind. While he and Ella try to figure out what’s happening, an ex-military millionaire businessman has also taken an interest, and the couple struggle to keep Joe’s health up and essentially save the world against these men who wish to exploit the phenomenon Joe is experiencing.
Unpredictable is basically the only word I can use to describe this book. It’s an ecological paranormal thriller (that’s a mouthful), and a science fiction nut’s dream. I feel like Kenneth Bennett said to himself, “what if this happened, and what if… and what if…” and threw all these what ifs together and created a melting point of environmental science fiction that works.
Let’s be honest. This book is out there. Like, on another planet in another universe out there. It seems normal enough in the beginning, but once you get to the meat, it’s all telepathy and sleazy guards mixed with animals and a depleting environment. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book, but after the first three chapters, I already felt my heart pumping and I was flipping faster.
The suspense is crazy throughout the entire novel. Again, it’s unpredictable, so the reader never really knew what was going to happen. Bennett uses kind of a third person omniscient style, so we can see what everyone is doing all the time, but he also conveniently leaves out certain view points that the reader needs to fill in the rest of the puzzle, which keeps the mystery going.
The paranormal telepathy and animal talking-type stuff threw me off a bit. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s pretty shocking, and hard to talk about without giving any spoilers! Let’s just say even though I was a little wary of the strange plot, Bennett tastefully added science fiction elements to the story without deviating into a tangent or making it too confusing.
So despite my discrimination against paranormal or hardcore science fiction, I enjoyed this book greatly. It’s fun to get out of the fiction fads (ehm, dystopias) or stop reading predictable paperbacks and typical contemporaries in order to dive into a unique and well-written novel with a fresh idea. This book had great potential to go off the deep end, but Bennett pulled everything together without reaching too far (but he did push the limits, this book oozes science fiction) and molded a peculiar and seemingly impossible idea into a planned and put together novel.
I had a couple problems, though. First of all, the characters are flat. Joe and Ella are the pinnacle of perfection, while the evil businessmen have creepy theme music playing and a sinister gleam in their eyes. He made the characters almost unrelatable. For instance, Joe is said to have tattoos and an earring in the first couple pages, which leads one to believe he’s more rebellious. Later, we find out he’s a pastor, but throughout the book it doesn’t mention his appearance again other than his physique, and his thoughts or actions don’t really match up to those of a priests’. Yet he can do no wrong, and neither can his girlfriend. While on the other hand, the bad guys are bad to the bone. There is no remorse or anything, and killing is a second nature. I think it could have been spiced up a bit by playing with the reader’s emotions and causing the good/bad to overlap.
Another issue was the ending. Everything seemed very drawn out until the end, where tons of things happened at once, and then it was over. Ella turned out to play a bigger part than I anticipated, but it felt like she was shoved into an important role because there wasn’t any previous hints that allowed her to seamlessly slip into the part. There are definitely some holes here and there, especially towards the end. I think this would be good for a sequel (which it seems to be left open for) or a companion novel that focuses more on Ella and the… other animals (no spoilers!!).
It’s set in 2022, and it’s scary to think the world’s land and oceans would be so polluted and disgusting due to human waste and exploitation. I also hoped he would focus more on the environmental concerns, but it’s obvious by then, there is no helping the Earth, which is what I think he wanted to portray. I don’t think this scenario would happen in 8 years, but let’s just make sure it doesn’t… reduce, reuse, recycle!!!
Overall, I enjoyed reading a book with a unique plot that was also well-written. Though it has a few holes and character issues, it doesn’t take that much away from the reading experience. I didn’t think I’d like the hardcore eco-science fiction, but it just goes to show you what a good author, idea, and plot structure can do.