REVIEW: Revelations by M. Scott Byrnes

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Astronauts on Mars make a startling discovery lying underneath the Martian sands. Back on Earth, Tim Redmond struggles to make sense of his abilities and why, exactly, he has visions of Mars.

PROS: Quick read, interesting premise, series of revelations elevates the scope of the story.

CONS: Paper thin characters, superficial theological discussions, ambiguous ending.

BOTTOM LINE: Reads like a Hollywood SF movie (but a bit better then usual) that rarely slows down. Another book in the SF thriller vein, and a good one.


MY REVIEW:

If Revelations reads like a Hollywood movie, that’s because M. Scott Byrnes created the screenplay first, then adapted it for his first novel. This is both good and bad, as detailed below.

First, because its adapted from a screenplay, this novel is short, clocking in at 279 pages in hardcover. But Byrnes manages to squeeze a lot of action, switching between Mars and Earth, in those 279 pages, which causes the plot to move forward at a breakneck pace. Rarely does the narrative slow down to discuss anything in depth, instead choosing to move on to the next action or event. As the premise (life found on Mars! How does Tim Redmond fit with that?) is interesting, I never felt cheated by the shortness of the book. The prose itself is clear and concise and never gets in the way. Byrnes does a good job of describing the characters and events, but never gets bogged down in details. Byrnes also does a very good job of revealing to Tim, and the reader, just enough of the mystery behind the Martians to further propel the story toward the next point. In fact, in the middle of the book, there is a series of revelations that elevates the scope of the book above that of a pure SF story, adding some theological flavor to the Martians and Tim.

Which brings us to the negatives. Aside from Tim, all of the other characters are paper thin. They are mere window dressing for the plot to use as necessary. Not even the NASA astronauts are truly fleshed out. Additionally, when we finally learn who/what Tim is, there are huge theological issues raised by this information that are generally glossed over. Byrnes seems to have intentionally avoided them as the actual reveal of the mystery, to me, was more traditional SF in scope and didn’t seem to live up to the hints provided. Then the story moved on to the eventual climactic confrontation. There are so many implications behind what is going on, and Byrnes himself gives Tim and ‘out’ to his existence and purpose which seems to not be SFish, that a more thoughtful book could have delved into. But Revelations isn’t really about that, its about action, and so it moves on. The ending confrontation happens off screen. What we get is an ambiguous ending which, like many Hollywood movies, leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

What Revelations does, action and adventure, it does well. Just don’t expect memorable characters or deep, or even fairly shallow, discussion of the theological implications. But because the story kept moving along and was well written and interesting, I found myself turning page after page, until I had finished the book over a weekend, which, for me, is very fast. Because of that, I gave Revelations a high rating. I had to finish it. It does have some SF elements, just don’t expect hard SF. Instead, expect a thriller with some SF thrown in to expand the scope.