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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alpha Redemption by P.A. Baines

Let me begin by saying...Unfair, Paul. Not cheating. But unfair.

I should continue by saying I won my copy during a chat room book launch session. I didn't have to pay for it, but I would have. I was rearranging my budget for the month to leave out a few meals when I got the happy news. Huzzah!

And now, Alpha Redemption, a book in three courses.

Let us set the table.

Brett Denton is a broken man. He's lost his wife, his children and his will to live. He exists day to day, drink to drink, waiting for death to end his suffering.

He retains just enough sanity to avoid outright suicide, but when an opportunity arises to test pilot a dangerous mission into outer space to scout the Alpha Centauri system for habitable planets, he doesn't flinch. Our story begins as Brett takes his first steps into his spaceship home.

The first course is cauliflower soup: savory, satisfying and smooth. We settle into Brett's new life on the ship. We join him in eating, sleeping, training and interacting with the ship's computer, Jay. Brett's life will consist of one month awake and two months in hyper-sleep as the ship alternately accelerates and decelerates from light speed.

We hurt when Brett hurts. We marvel as his age begins to reverse. We pay attention as memories of his former life bubble to the surface like fragrant basil, sweet shallots or spicy ginger. It is a simple story well-told: a man, his past and a machine interacting together in space.

I enjoyed every moment of this course and licked the bowl when I was done.

TT: Originally, I thought this would be the only course. I intended to compare it to homemade garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes. Easy to swallow, imminently satisfying and with just enough surprising bits to make a reasonable meal. I was as surprised by the change as I was by what happened after the change.

Course number two is a salad of exotic ingredients. Mysteries await at Alpha Centauri. Immediate danger sets up camp within the ship. Jay the computer is becoming more erratic and...well...human. More memories surface and we see a life story told in reverse. Fascinating.

I crunched my way through this course, delighted with each new flavor. Only once did I encounter a peppercorn that tasted out of place, but the salad moved on and so did I.

The third and last course is a kind of pot pie. Bubbling ingredients hidden under a layer of flaky pastry. No idea what hearty bit would come up next, but each one delicious and infinitely chewable. I gulped my way through this course, burning my throat on occasion (Oh, wait. Those were tears). And then The End.


I have some gripes. I always do.

1) The peppercorn. Hopefully without spoiling anything, I was a bit surprised at what they found in the Alpha Centauri system. I would have liked to spend more time there exploring. But we didn't. Perhaps that is something I'll read in a sequel. Perhaps it is simply an unexplained mystery. I moved on, but I had to pick my teeth to do it.

2) The lack of dessert in this meal. I was hoping for something rich and bittersweet. I would have accepted cheesecake, as long as it was creamy and topped with cherries. What I got was a table of licked bowls and picked-over plates, and the waiter announcing I would have to come back another day and start over before I got dessert.

That was unfair, Paul. Please don't do it again.

It's possible I'm being harsh. Truth is, I was enjoying the story so much, I may just have been annoyed The End came, and not specifically with the form it took.

Ocilla's Mommy likes to give her favorite quotes from books. Here are some of mine.

"A conversation is headed his way and there isn't a thing he can do to avoid it." I have so been there.

"...although the words enter his retinas, they are not intercepted by his brain, and so drift off to wherever it is things go that are not understood." I have quite a few things hanging out in that place.

"...as often happens when you get to know people in positions of authority, he has realized they're actually idiots..." For once, I'll avoid launching into a political statement.

And possibly my favorite because it took me straight to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a place I often go when reading Paul's blog posts):

"Not again."

So, on the buttercup scale of style, plot, humor, consistency and heart, I'm giving him four and a half buttercups. I'm holding that half back just because of the peppercorn. And maybe the lack of dessert. I do like dessert.

Before someone asks, I will post some smaller reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, hopefully this weekend. Well done, Paul!

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