Friday, January 16, 2015

REVIEW: Lightning's Child

Lightning's Child
Michael A. Smith

Genre: Suspense, Romance, Science Fiction
Publication date: 5.15.2012
Pages: 278

Recommended by: Sage's Blog Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 1.15.2015

Summary: During an artillery barrage at the Civil War battle of Antietam in 1862, a young colonel lost his leg.  More than 150 years later, he lost the same leg in a traffic accident on the Washington, DC Beltway!
            Diane Kowalski, a research scientist, examines tissue from the anonymous victim's severed leg.  She discovers a genetic mutation that could make regeneration possible - and increase longevity.
            Diane and Jack O'Sullivan, a private investigator, follow clues that lead them to Thomas Winthrop, founder of a leading genetics research laboratory.  They learn that Winthrop has developed a gene therapy to extend his natural gifts to "humanity."  However, Winthrop's "family" opposes his plan, arguing that it would lead to overpopulation, economic chaos, famine and war.
            Lightning Child is a novel about the latest advances in biotechnology that one day may allow the human species to control its evolutionary destiny.  It's also a lighthearted and entertaining story about its colorful characters, as they struggle to achieve purpose, fulfillment and love in their lives.

As I sat down with this book, I was intrigued.  The first few sentences of the book description talk about a colonel losing his leg during the Civil War, then losing the same leg again 150 years later, and I wanted to know more.  I was also curious to learn about the characters of Jack and Diane.  The full book synopsis really threw my brain for a loop: it's disjointed and I could not fathom how he was going to pull off combining a science-filled suspense novel with a "lighthearted" romance.

I hadn't even finished reading chapter two before my excitement had begun to feel more like disappointment. The author had already thrown in two large conversations that came across more like college lectures (though interesting, they were a little tedious to wade through) and this: "Jack was momentarily stunned, having expected a mousy nerd with a PhD and glasses.  Instead, he found a beautiful, thirty-ish, tall, strawberry blonde with mesmerizing blue-green eyes, a perfectly synchronized rotating derriere and long, shapely legs."  (Need I say more?)

The story:  It did get better as the book went on.  The suspense part was interesting, the science part was different and engrossing (and I like how it was explained in layman's terms), it moved along quickly, and I was very interested in what was going to happen, but some things just seemed way too easy, including the way it all came together in the end.

The characters:  There wasn't a particular character that I absolutely loved, which was unfortunate.  

Jack was okay, but he was a "typical" PI - ex-cop, money issues, spying on either the wife or husband in divorce cases.  He seemed pretty cool when he was hanging out with his buddies at his favorite bar or talking to his assistant, even when he was investigating, but around Diane he was completely different.  I would have liked a character with more depth, and I could have done without his "dirty old man"-moments i.e. "Jack hurried to catch up, although not so fast that he wasn't able to take a good look at her from the back.  Diane wore a gray pant suit with subtle black pinstripes.  Overall it was a conservative outfit that downplayed her sexuality, but the moderate high heels caused her hips to sway provocatively with every determined step."  (Is this a "polite" way to say leering?)  

I did not care for Diane at all.  She made bad choices, came off as immature (even though she was supposed to be this great scientist), used people, and got herself into situations she should have known better about.  The biggest thing was how how everyone kept talking about how beautiful she was.

Winthrop was very interesting, but he kept a lot of secrets, and I could never tell when he was being honest and when he wasn't.

Melanie, Jack's assistant, was probably my favorite - she had so much potential, but her character could have been developed more.

The romance:  Now, everyone who knows me (or reads my blogs/reviews regularly) knows that I'm not a big fan of romance.  I'm okay with a little romance mixed in - sometimes it does add to the story, especially if the romance is what is motivating a character to take on a particular adventure.  I tend to find most romances I read in novels unrealistic, which is okay if you're reading a fantasy (where an elf can fall in love with a dragon, or whatever), but not okay if you're reading a suspense novel.  In this novel, there are several characters who are looking for romance, but they seem to be doing it for all the wrong reasons.  And it doesn't really add to the story.

The ending:  I was unhappy about the abrupt ending, which forces you to read book two (more like a series finale than the end of a novel).  A lot of questions were answered, but the very ending leaves you hanging on.

Last night I spent a long time discussing this book with a friend, trying to figure out what I should do, how I should rate it, and what I should say.  I settled on a 3 with lots of constructive criticism because I wanted potential readers to be able to make an informed decision.  I've only had a couple of reviews that were hard to write, and this one was definitely one of them.  

About the author:
Michael A. Smith is the author of six published novels, all described on his website.  He began his career as a newspaper reporter, and was editor of the Golden, Colorado Daily Transcript. He also was Associate Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education, and Press Secretary, Congressman Richard Durbin.  He is a member of the Author's Guild.

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