Book Review: Breakers by Edward W. Robertson

A mysterious illness wipes out two thirds of the population, leaving the very few that are immune to fend for themselves. The narrative focuses on Walt, who ventures from New York City to the west coast after his girlfriend Vanessa dies, and Raymond and Mia who live a uniquely comfortable life farming and scavenging in Los Angeles.

Breakers was so good that it gave me new neuroses. After the population was taken out so quickly, I stayed away from dense crowds, and spent sleepless nights thinking about how fragile our carefully constructed society really is. If you are sensitive to health anxiety or anxiety in general, Breakers might be a little too intense for you.

My favorite aspect of this book was the choice in protagonists. The world is so interesting that Robertson could have gone in a lot of different directions, but he chose two protagonists that begin the story as regular, if reprehensible, people. Walt’s first reaction upon finding Vanessa dead is to grope her breast one last time, and soon after the illness breaks out Raymond gets involved in the black market, and then takes advantage of the looting that’s a result of the mass panic. However, by the time they meet, all three protagonists have been strengthened and improved by circumstances, which I thought was a very good move on the author’s part.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and is available for free on Kindle. Please support self-published authors like Edward W. Robertson and check it out!

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Chosen Different [Book Review]

Chosen Different by Nat Kozinn is an alternate-universe science fiction novel, the first in an in-progress series. (I only mention this for readers like me, who prefer to power through multiple books instead of waiting impatiently!) In my opinion, it would be best for a teen audience. It was a good read, and not lacking in any substantial way, but more experienced readers might appreciate more complexity and narrative beauty.

The real strength of this book is the world the author has created. Gavin, the protagonist, is a Different: a mutant with powers, reminiscent of the X-Men. In a world devastated by a terrorist during Reagan’s presidency, the Differents are slaves, robbed of Constitutional rights and forced to work thankless jobs, or risk being sent to a special prison. The ongoing mystery of Nita, the head Librarian of think.Net, the world’s internet equivalent, is reason enough to read this book and eagerly wait for the next installment.

I was really impressed with the research and imagination that went into Gavin’s character, as well. His ability is “Anthropomorphic Control,” meaning that he has total control over his body, at the cost of being forced to consciously keep it working. When his power first began to mature, he was totally incapacitated by it, but a patient teacher helped him figure out how to function well enough to become a food-tester for this universe’s McDonald’s. Kozinn never lets us forget how fundamentally different Gavin is from us, but at the same time doesn’t let it overwhelm the storyline.

In terms of plot, by a few chapters in I thought I had it all figured out– but I was wrong. Gavin seemed to be developing into a dystopian Clark Kent, until a fascinating antagonist and some very real flaws turn him into someone I could actually root for, and transformed the storyline into something really worth reading.

The narrative is a little clunky, which at first bothered me, but as I kept reading I decided that it was for a legitimate rhetorical purpose. After all, Gavin has to consciously keep his heart beating– I would feel a little terse too.

I think that the novel’s biggest weakness is a sense of “Why should I care?” throughout the first few chapters. I think he focuses on giving us a view of his fantastic world before giving us a real reason to care about his food-testing, deliberately-digesting main character. Gavin remains a little flat throughout the narrative, having only one simple motivation, but lovers of sci-fi should forgive this and give Kozinn’s absolutely fantastic worldbuilding a chance.

I am a big supporter of self-publishing, so if this sounds interesting to you, please consider getting a copy on Amazon!