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Mark of the Harbinger: Fall of Eden by Chris…

Mark of the Harbinger: Fall of Eden

by Chris R. McCarthy

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The basic idea of a ship full of thousands of people wandering outer space for thousands of years and how that impacts their culture is a good one. But it is unfortunately supported by weak characterization, quite a bit of telling instead of showing (often in the form a conversational infodump), questionable science, and aggravating plot twists.

I am not a scifi reader who expects everything to be Asimov or heavy on the science. I enjoy the broad range that scifi has to offer. But I do expect a scifi that takes itself seriously, as this one does, to have: a plot that makes sense, at least two characters who are well-rounded and richly presented, and any science within it to be accurate or at least plausible. This scifi definitely takes itself seriously, but it fails on these marks.

The book opens with a first person narration of the nameless hero (later named Harbinger) believing he is being dissected by an alien race. It takes quite a bit of time to find out that he was cryogenically frozen on this ship, and the rebels of the prison ship have woken him up. If this wasn't a review copy, I probably would have given up before Harbinger figures this out, because the reader has zero reason to care about this character who is being dissected, apparently. It's quite jarring to open up the book that way, and it's hard to read with no investment in any of the characters at all. It's a rough beginning.

Harbinger has amnesia, so he can't help the rebels figure out why exactly he was on the ship. But they do discover that he has superhuman powers, just as the rebels were hoping, so they want him to help them fight for access back to Echelon--the ship that is not a prison (There are names for both ships, but I honestly can't remember what the name of the prison ship was.) The rebel character who works closest with Harbinger is a woman named Leema. Harbinger gets slightly more characterization than Leema, because we are inside his head. But both come across as flat. Their actions appear to exist entirely as plot devices and not out of real, rich motivation. For instance, Leema seems mostly to exist to give Harbinger information, to have sex with, then to spur him to make certain decision. She doesn't come across as a person so much as a plot device. The same can be said for the leader of the rebels, Argus, an older man who calls people "son." He simply does not feel real. He feels like a plot device who pops in whenever it's necessary to make something happen to Harbinger.

The writing often relies on conversational infodump, which is a shame, because when there are action sequences, they are interesting and exciting. The periodic action sequences are what kept me reading. They are well-written, particularly the fight scenes. But when the characters talk, the conversation doesn't feel real. It feels like the author is speaking directly to the reader through the characters, often to provide background information. This is known as an infodump, and it's frustrating to read. It would be better to work this information into the plot, rather than have characters sit in a room and say it at each other for chapters at a time.

The science is a bit shaky. For instance, the spaceship is decorated with marble. Real marble. Real marble is incredibly heavy, and there's a weight limit that spaceships can handle. It's hard to imagine a people desperate to save humanity from meteors wasting precious weight space on marble decorations. Similarly, Harbinger is never fully explained. He appears to be human and bleeds but can't feel pain, has superhuman strength, can only be killed by cutting off his head. Is he a robot? Or a genetically modified humanoid? Maybe a clone? Leema explains "his kind" being created but she seems to know very little about it, which makes it odd that she and the rebels knew enough to know how to break him free from Ark by cutting into him and adjusting things inside his body. The core of the idea is good but it's just not explained enough. That is really what makes some of the science in the book weak. It's not gone into in enough depth to make enough sense.

Finally, the plot makes quite a few quick zany twists, most of which I was willing to give a pass. The final twist, however, made me want to throw my kindle against the wall. (I didn't, because I like my kindle). I'm sure the final plot twist was intended to make the reader want to continue on to the next book in the series, but it actually just left me feeling deeply unsatisfied and frustrated. If I had to put my finger on what made it so frustrating, I'd say that it felt forced, not organic.

Overall, this book consists of a good basic idea that suffers from infodumping, weak characters, and being forced to stick to a plot that doesn't feel organic. Rich characters who drove an organic plot free of infodumps could have made this into an interesting world and cultural exploration. Instead, it's a frustrating read.

Check out my full review. (Link will be live August 11, 2015). ( )
  gaialover | Aug 8, 2015 |
I received an e-book version of this book through a giveaway on LibraryThing in return for an honest review.

The disparity between the haves and have nots which exists on the massive spaceship Eden didn’t happen overnight, it occurred over the five millenniums it has been wandering space. It occurred because of the lack of a central entity/individual to oversee the entire operation of for the last hope for the survival of the human race.

Society has devolved from its democratic state to a state where Arc and the Human Council ruled and all dissidents got banished to a life of destitution from a realm where luxury endures.

It’s only when the book’s main character, the Harbinger, is found deep in the bowels of the Under where the dissidents are forced to eke out their existence. Harbinger has no recollection of who he is or any knowledge for/of his reason for being. But with the aid of the rebel Leema and others, the destiny of all those aboard the Eden can be returned to its original intention by destroying the current status quo.

While the writing could use some tweaking, the writing itself makes for a enjoyable page turning read with the vivid mental pictures it creates, as well as for the development of the book’s characters. The book is one that is multi-genre which is appealing to a broader range of potential readers; sci-fi, romance, adventure and societal life, than a single genre of sci-fi.

With all things considered I’m happy to give this book 4 STARS. ( )
  MyPenNameOnly | Aug 5, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this book. I started reading it and immediately was swept in. Is living forever better than really living? Is exiling the criminals for eternity okay even if it was just one minor crime? these are some points that really caught my interest in this book.

If you like sci-fi you will love this book. And should grab a copy :)

And then there is the love story, two people instantly hating each other then turning it around with a love that is true and pure. Just how they react with each other makes it seem even better. Its written amazingly. Reading how they are with each other you could imagine being that way with someone. So its more real in that aspect than a lot of stories.. ( )
  katieperryrogers | Mar 4, 2015 |
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