As is my normal custom, I purchased this book with the intention of reading for review. I acquired Solutrean Atlantis: Chapters 1-8: Sample Chapters from Amazon, an estimated 77 pages for the sum of $2.99. I will admit freely that I acquired a copy of the book knowing that there were problems, and it was and is my intent to use this as an exemplar for my readers and other indie authors who are still learning their field.
To that purpose, this review may be somewhat lengthier than my customary reviews for readability. Bear with me. Before I touch on the content, I will enumerate the problems we see with our first impression of this ebook.
First of all, the cover is created with disparate elements which do not blend harmoniously, and text that is all but unreadable at thumbnail size. This, in itself, is not a hindrance to marketing a book, as I’ve seen popular MilSF titles with unfortunate covers. It’s not, however, a good sign for what lies inside that packaging, as a rule of thumb.
Moving slightly to the side, I am dismayed by the title. Not only is this unwieldy in length (two colons?) but makes it obvious that for a very high price, you can receive very little. This impression is reinforced to the savvy reader at the bottom of the screenshot by the length listed of 77 pages. From experience, I can tell you that this is firmly in the novella length, probably around 18,000 words in length. It also makes it clear you are not getting a full story for your money. I’m not sure why anyone would be willing to pay this sum for a sample, when you can preview a book on Amazon for free with samples and the Look Inside feature. Additionally, many Indie novels – particularly the first in a series – are priced at this point, or lower, and that for full-length books.
Just below the title, we see that the person who is ostensibly the author is instead listed as editor. I’m left confused by this. I think the person is the sole author. The blurb is lifeless and promises little, other than a sermon about climate and civilization.
Sadly, the book inside lives up to the first impression I was given on the sales page. I can say one good thing for it. It’s mercifully short.
I hate doing negative reviews. I really do. Most of the time, faced with a bad book, I delete it from the device, and move on. Or, put off by blurb and cover, I don’t buy it at all. Once in a great while, however, I feel I must go ahead with the review. In this case, I think it can become a teaching tool.
My dear readers, if you write, I implore you to not:
- Use the abbreviation LOL in dialogue unironically.
- Write your heroes encountering an irrefutable UFO with no more emotional involvement or tension than they displayed a few paragraphs earlier about chocolate chip cookies.
- Expect that a moving vehicle passing through an alien portal while traveling at 35 mph will arrive virtually unharmed on the other side, where there is no road. The conservation of momentum demands that if there is a change in passage, you the author must explicate this in detail.
- Assume that two large, uncrated dogs will survive that transition in a vehicle with no major injuries.
- Write a scenario involving involuntary time travel where your heroes immediately guess what has happened.
- Follow that scenario up with the heroes driving their vehicle across rough terrain with no set destination, knowing there will be no fuel for their vehicle. Ever.
- Follow up that scenario with our heroes interrupting a hunt and butchering of a large animal with unknown people, assuming their religious rites, and then making precipitous contact. When predators are drawn to the carcass, the heroes attack it with their limited ammunition. And, of course, are able to speak to the aborigines they met immediately as one of the heroes can speak Basque.
- Write uninterrupted, wooden dialogue where our heroes tell one another all the things they know.
Do not, I implore you, insert songs with translations into an ebook as a table. Your readers will not be able to read it in full.
There is so much wrong with this book from a technical point of view that I almost hesitate to touch on the other problem I had with it almost from the beginning. I’m not a fan of message fiction. Message fiction, for those who don’t gather the definition implied, is a story where the preaching comes first, and all else is secondary. It’s a matter of information being pushed at the reader, often in an indigestible lump of an info-dump, and furthermore, information that does nothing to advance the plot or truly develop the characters. It is the case here, with the characters being cardboard at best, and mere mouthpieces for the author’s sermon, at worst. It’s not that I disagree, necessarily, with what the author wants to say. But it would have been far better in a scholarly monograph than as it is presented. I don’t care what the message is, it doesn’t need to overshadow the story.
Look, if you’re jonesing for a good thrown-back-in-time read, I highly recommend Michael Z Williamson’s Long Time Til Now. Unlike the characters in Solutrean Atlantis, his people take it slow, cautiously, and there is a good bit of philosophy but it isn’t crammed into dialogue all up front, rather coming out as the characters interact and discuss their next moves. in SA, we find our heroes giving away their irreplaceable modern materials willy-nilly with no mutual discussion over the value of things like Ziploc bags and exacto blades. There’s no talk about what happened, and how they can get home, if they can get home… and the alien ship is a total deus ex machina, gone from their thoughts as soon as it has accomplished the author’s intent of throwing them back in time. I’m not even discussing the Mary Sue aspects of the characters, who just happen to be uniquely and multi-modally suited to what has happened to them (SCA players, armorer, multi-discipline martial arms experts, one is a nurse… oh, and polylinguist).
In the first day in their new time, the heroes set up camp with the aboriginal but clearly European descent people they have found, the nurse treats all and sundry while the brother gathers all the necessary materials to build himself a forge. Then, they sit down and have a sing-along with the villagers. Follow that up with storytime and teaching them the beginning of writing and reading, and you have a very full first day, no?
Finally, we learn that the people they have made contact with are connected to Atlantis, and before bed, our heroes use the stars to determine what time they have fallen into. So ends the first part of this novel… the pace, as you may have guessed, is terribly rushed. Furthermore, it’s not all action. Indeed, there are really only two action scenes in the length of this ‘sample’ and neither of them are very long, nor do they have any contemplation of their repercussions afterward.
I’m not even going to get into the numerous grammar and punctuation issues. You can see a few in the screenshots.
I’ll leave you with this: not only was this a sample chapter section, but as you will see below, it’s an unfinished novel. Who knows what will become of it? I would highly encourage any Indie author considering serializing their novel to complete the full manuscript before attempting it. Make this clear in your work, as well, because readers are understandably wary of getting caught up in a story with no end in sight – especially when it comes to an author they have no experience with. It’s a terrible business idea to try and use a serialization to crowdfund your work. Writing costs nothing, and having the whole thing ready to go means you won’t lose your readers the moment you have unexpected delays. And there will be delays.
In addition, there are no live links to find the information the author alludes to about his website or facebook pages. As it happens, I had found the book originally from the facebook page, so I knew where it was.
I’m going to include a final precaution for my Indie Authors who I know are reading this: read the KDP TOS. Especially pay attention to the terms that prohibit you from offering the same material elsewhere at a lower cost or free. Offering the sample to your Indiegogo campaign violates Amazon’s TOS and will get your book removed from the store, or at best marked down to permafree to match your ‘price’ elsewhere. This is only fair to the Amazon customers, after all. In the end, I’m rather sorry I spent money on this. Although it was not a waste of my time if it can help some of my readers and fellow Indie Authors to avoid a pitfall or two. Please, I beg of you, keep this in mind. We are trying to prove that being Independently published can be a professional, worthwhile product for readers. Don’t be like this author.