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Monday, January 6, 2014

Indie Review - Clarity

Clarity, is the first book in the "Epsilon" series of dystopian science fiction stories R. James Stevens is currently writing.  I met Mr. Stevens on twitter and he gifted a copy of Clarity to me for an honest review.  You can find the book on Amazon.  You can also view his blog here.
Discovery. Salvation. Redemption.
Three individuals; three separate paths. All will be irreversibly entwined as they search for the answers in an attempt to reassemble the pieces of their broken lives. But will they find what they seek, or will they stumble upon the devastating truth that lies just beyond their reach?
The Epsilon series explores the events seven years after the catastrophic death of a technological society.
The first installment, Clarity, begins in 2084 and focuses both forward and back on the raw, emotional journeys of former friends and partners. Will they band together to help right wrongs and restore order to the scattered remnants of the populace? Or will their quests for individual fulfillment tear apart an already worn bond?
While not their primary concern, Clarity is indeed what they will find. 
It was the right thing to do... one of the main characters in Clarity, Brigadier Stroud, says this to justify his actions throughout the book.  On the surface, I agreed with him.  Put in dark, unwinnable situations, he tried his best to let his conscience lead him.  He breaks protocol and shuns orders to save innocents.  Yet many times, doing "the right thing" led to unspeakable tragedy. 
This is the darkness of the world R. James Stevens created in his "Epsilon" series.  70 years from now, the URA (United Republic of Americas), a nation uniting both American continents, is gone.  Destroyed by a cataclysm the book only hints at, those still alive fend for themselves in a broken landscape, filled with the remnants of a past technological super power.  The world of Clarity is both dark and believable.  It is obvious Mr. Stevens put significant effort into building this world and has a lot of back story still to reveal in future books.

Mr. Stevens is unapologetic with his form of story telling in Clarity, which can be jarring at times.  I was reminded of the TV show "Lost", as the book jumps around often with numerous flashbacks, while leaving the reader guessing as to what is really going on.  I admit, this built up the suspense, but at times frustrated.  Many scenes left out the details of what a character saw or thought, even though the scene was written from that character's point of view, as a way to keep the reader guessing.

The book is much longer than the other IndiePub books I reviewed in the past, but at 500 pages, it is by no means overwhelming.

I was most impressed by the action scenes in the book.  The story is full of brawls, military engagements, and heists, and Mr. Stevens imaginatively choreographs each.  They kept me guessing, pulled me in and kept me wanting more throughout the story. 

In between the action, the book slows at times.  I feel like the author could have edited these scenes to tighten them up more.  I would suggest looking at a book like Rayne Hall's The Word Loss Diet to help these parts of the story flow better, and remove unneeded words that slow down the prose.

I commend Mr. Stevens for finishing and publishing Clarity, a dystopian sci-fi novel that looks at a world torn apart by the technology it trusted.  It is dark and gritty, and I believe gives a believable glimpse of the human condition.  The action is solid and pulls you in and keeps you guessing, even if at times the story telling can slow down and confuse.  I can tell Mr. Stevens has a lot more to say about the world of the "Epsilon" series, and I encourage him to continue. 

For anyone looking for science fiction in a dark dystopian future (one of my favorite genres), I recommend Clarity and the future stories of the "Epsilon" series.

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