GR Review: Slipstream by Michael Offutt

I have recently received Michael Offutt's Slipstream as a free Giveaway on GoodReads First Read

I've never been good at introductions, so I'll just cut to the chase...

Michael's debut novel looks like a very good promise for future writings.
There are quite some features that he combined successfully in turning a nice story, like, and not stopping at, good overall pacing of the action, building the tension, building like-able characters, creating a deep dystopic world, and so on.

There are also a couple of ideas that didn't quite catch on me, and a few things that I really didn't like. Nevertheless, overall it was a pleasant read.

To get into detail, let's see now...

Setting
Personally, I would have liked a bit of more world building. The worlds described have been quite thoroughly imagined, but the writer gives only the minimum needed to keep up with the action. Imagine a tree, and imagine you are going along the trunk, up to the top. That's nice and effective, but the tree may have a lot of branches on the sides, and some of them might seem interesting.


Characters
On this bit I would say I didn't find the characters to have been built as complex as I had hoped. Especially regarding the abilities they're endowed with. The "explanation" that comes near the end of the novel does come in handy and clarifies parts of the unknown, but I love books that make me feel the characters and relate to them. That I didn't feel. In spite of interesting romances presented in quite a clear and "romantic" way (they're romances, right? :D), the characters seemed cold and at times, impersonal...

Action
The action is great. I did have a hard time connecting ice-hockey and world-saving in one piece, but it seems to work. What bothered me about pacing is that it is quite uneven. There are pages where the actions are "loud and clear", with great kinematic descriptions, but there are also pages where things happen in three words. I am thinking now of the scene where some of the characters go to the Undercity and have a nice discovery. I'd say a couple more pages about getting there would have been perfect.

Subject
As I said before, I had a bit of a problem putting together ice-hockey and world-saving. Partly because of the amount of drugs implied (and it's a lot), partly because sports? and Schroedinger's cat? Together?? (as some other reviewer mentioned). More, the "science" behind the slipstream is a bit too conceptual, too simplistic, although, again, quite effective. Some more information on this would have made me give the book four stars, actually...

Things I really didn't like
I hate name-dropping. I don't care Jordan's listening to Eminem's last album. Or whatever. And that doesn't count in character complexity either. And I really don't give a damn if he's eating out at Chuck E Cheese or whatever that's called or not. Probably the author wanted to give the "real" Earth an earthly tone. Whatever (third time I'm using the word. By number five I would've dropped the book). And the endless description of the laces on "insert character name"'s shoes in the morning......... C'mon, there's a full page describing a regular, day-to-day outfit, and on the next three lines the character's moved out, crossed the entire city by car, gone underground and made a discovery that's about to turn around the whole action?

Then, there are ideas that seem sooooo familiar.... I mean, the actions that take place in some of the buildings have Matrix written all over them. Half of the action I had Matrix going on in my head. It was nice (great even), but... Sometimes the resolvings come tooooo close to deus-ex-machina.


Now, to end with a positive attitude, because, let's face it, I've been going on and on about improvements needed, there's one thing that stuck with me and I really enjoy it. In a way, it also explains a bit all the things I didn't like and turns them into something promising.
The whole novel, for me, has manga/anime written all over it. If I were a writer and I wanted to write a novel after a comic book, Slipstream would be the most probable outcome. You wouldn't have a constant pace throughout the action; you wouldn't have the entire world described; you'd have to come reeeeal close to deus-ex-machina-esque resolvings and you'd probably have a drawing of a character's day-to-day's outfit's shoe-lace...

That's what Slipstream feels to me: a comic book turned into a novel.
With sports, AI's and angels, drugs and world-saving.
Yes, I liked it and I want to read the sequel.
Michael, mission accomplished.


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