Saturday, July 31, 2010

When Kids Turn Detective: L M Preston, THE PACK (Science Fiction/Detection)

L M (Lanita) Preston has been touring quite a bit already this year, but August 1 is the official online release party for her book THE PACK -- see her web site for details of the fun. I devoured this book a couple of months ago, and I'm glad more people will now have a chance to grab a copy. (There's even an excerpt to download from the web site.)

It's a paradox of a book -- more or less self-published. "PhenomenalOne Press" announces the intention of adding other authors' titles, but so far it's just providing two books by Preston -- this one and Explorer X — Alpha. And it has an occasional awkwardness to the writing that suggests outsider status. Yet it's a great work of science fiction, laying out clearly and cleverly the adaptations that might make Mars habitable, as well as the social structure that could result from exporting specific Earth population segments.

Shamira is blind, a condition that has enhanced many of her other talents and skills. Daughter of two of the members of the Security Force Elite on Mars, she's learned well from both parents, and is skilled in martial arts, tough thinking, and planning ahead. As the novel opens, she's stalking a predator -- and is accidentally foiled in a move to capture someone she thinks may know why and how other kids have disappeared from the planet's urbanized areas. Her struggles with friendship and trust complicate her efforts, as solving the mystery depends on her ability to work with, even lead, other bright, tough kids. Here's a typical Shamira solo effort, before she's started grappling with a possible team, with a great example of Preston's technical creation:
She grinned at him, anger building, and with lightning speed she gripped his neck. He gulped when she tightened her grip on his neck and her knee jabbed into his groin with great force.

"Don't try to sweet talk me. I want information. You know where the kids are being held, don't yo? Tell me, and I'll let you go with memories of Earth," she said. Switching hands, she held his neck with her clawed glove. Using her other hand, she reached into her pocket to pull out a truth tick that she pierced into his neck. She waited for the flat mini computerized bug to do its job. Its sharp legs sunk into Lenny's skin and the biological replica of many species inserted a poison into Lenny that forced him to tell the truth.
In fact, I had such a good time with this book that I ended up regretting that it hadn't been pushed through the levels of revision that a conventional publisher might have demanded. This one could have climbed close to what The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins became, with more time and that pressure that eventually creates gems.

But who knows -- maybe pressure would have forced out the original ideas and lively movement of the plot? Join me in thinking more about this one. I've got a list of people I already want to loan my copy to, so ... get your own through

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