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REVIEW: Deepdrive by Alexander Jablokov

Deepdrive by Alexander JablokovREVIEW SUMMARY: The right ingredients, the wrong recipe.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The adventures of a ragtag team of anti-heroes caught up in a complicated, manipulative set of schemes.


PROS: Imaginative ideas; lots of action; fully detailed universe.

CONS: Confusing; no sense of cohesiveness; indistinct characters.

BOTTOM LINE: Action-packed, quick-moving storyline that is poorly executed.

This book had such a strong start.

Here?s the background: In the 21st Century, the uninhabited planets of the solar system have been terraformed by an alien probe. Eleven species of Aliens now reside on the planets and moons of our solar system. To travel between galaxies, the alien races use interstellar technology called a deepdrive; a one-way device that is destroyed by the aliens after it is used. The technology of the deepdrive is highly coveted by humans, who have yet to travel beyond the solar system. Against this backdrop, a renegade alien from an as-yet-unknown alien race crash lands on Venus and may have a functioning deepdrive. After 18 years in complacent captivity, the alien named Ripi is looking to escape for reasons unknown.

This interesting premise got the book of to a great start. There was lots of action and imaginative technology in a wonderfully portrayed, oftentimes gritty, set of locales. And all of this was stuffed inside a fully fleshed-out and super-detailed universe. On the action side, the story had space travel, prison breaks, hand-to-hand combat, covert actions, etc. On the sense-of-wonder side, there were interesting aliens, holographic maps, biological air transports/ navigation and even self-configuring programmable luggage (don?t ask). The plot and pace whisked the reader along a series of rapid, action-filled scenes where stuff happened. That?s a good thing. Too often, stories dwell seemingly forever on descriptions that don?t advance the plot. Deepdrive cannot be accused of being boring.

However, for all of these great elements, the story seemed to lack a sense of cohesiveness. The perspectives kept shifting between characters to the point of confusion for this reader. (Not that it?s hard to confuse this reader, but I digress?) Characters started to blend together and their motivations were sometimes unbelievable, sometimes unexplained. And just when you thought you got your bearings, it kept you in a state of confusion by employing the ?when that happened, this is what was really happening? gimmick.

This is not a light read by any means; it requires lots of time and patience. Still, can I fault a story for keeping me on my toes? No. But I can fault the method in which a good, well-imagined story is told. With Deepdrive, I felt like all the ingredients were there for an excellent story, but the recipe got lost.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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