Review – From the Grave of the Gods

Alan K. Dell's Novels
The novella prequel The Re-Emergence and novel From the Grave of the Gods

From the Grave of the Gods is set in a current-day hard science fiction universe, which then takes you into an adventure of humanity’s first real contact with advanced alien civilizations – an amazing, full-length novel by new author Alan K. Dell.

It’s wonderful to find a great page-turner from a new writer. The deeper I got into this book the more I couldn’t put it down (I know that is cliche’ but very true, I read the last 50% of it in a nearly consecutive 6 hour binge!)

The prologue to the novel presents a sequence of Commander James Fowler’s memories in the format of a forced interrogation of his mind, by an unknown pair of alien tormenters. Some of them are very cryptic but I believe it’s setting up things for the future Augment Series novels. One of these memories leads into the first chapter of this initial novel.

The story begins with the first manned mission to Mars in 2025, a mission to investigate what is at first believed to be an unusual comet impact site. The adventure follows the crew members through the mission as it morphs into a mysterious and traumatic ordeal, and the conspiracies and conspiracies which follow them back on Earth after the mission.

The major characters are very compelling and my connection to the them continued to grow stronger as the plot expanded and the dangers of the adventure deepened. I found myself anxious and personally invested in the jeopardy that the characters faced.

The pacing of the plot shows the patience of a seasoned storyteller, keeping us in the action and also giving the reader time to rest and invest in the characters. The universe that’s set in motion by this story is compelling. I can see how the series has a lot of room to expand and become even more exciting as the future novels come out.

This novel is a wonderful read on its own, and ends with it’s own satisfying conclusion, but I anxiously await Dell’s future novels in this series.

Book Review: “Project Hail Mary”

I read Project Hail Mary faster than anything else I’ve read in quite a while. Weir’s storytelling just drew me in and I could not put it down! I’ve read both of his previous works (The Martian and Artemus) and I would rank this up with the level of The Martian in regard to a fun and engaging read! Artemus was interesting, but I would say this is the better of Weir’s two books after The Martian.

The storytelling method Weir uses to revel the current story, and the connected backstory, is very clever. He reveals things “just in time” by alternating back and forth to the main character’s recall of his forgotten past. This keeps the backstory hints closely connected to current story solutions. The “ah-ha” connections this creates for the reader are very satisfying. I found myself constantly assuming things about the character’s past which the character himself was assuming, to only later learn of a twist or new revelation about his assumptions. This made the story a fun walk along side the main character which felt very much like I was living it out with him in real-time. Project Hail Mary has a similar “problem/try again/find a solution” feel to The Martian. I really loved that about his first novel and loved it here too.

All the characters are terrific. I love the humor in some of the two main character’s interactions as they get more established and get to know each other better. The main alien character is wonderful! He’s definitely very non-human in appearance and thought patterns – very strange at first – but I started getting a feel and love for his character as the story progressed. I think readers will easily learn to understand his personality and reactions quickly and even empathize with him in spit of his very in-human appearance.

The action and pacing is great. There are more than a few times when I thought, “good, they’ve solved that problem” when another seemingly insurmountable problem comes up. In this way it is very much like the beats of The Martian. The fun is in seeing how the problems are resolved.

There are a few minor things here and there that I felt it were a little too TELLING – characters explaining things that maybe they would not really do in real life – but these are minor and few and far between.

There’s one thing (I won’t give any spoilers here) that I did feel were kinda… unresolved… or maybe I just missed it, but the tying up of promises/problems and answers/solutions is handled very well. The one thing I still wonder about is maybe not really in need of an answer.

Overall, I loved this book and think Andy Weir has hit a home run again. I’m not sure if this would translate as well into a movie like The Martian did, but it made for an excellent novel and a very fun read!