This one’s a thinker

Rapture by Alex P Wu

269 pages

Self-published on December 28, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

In the year 2067, followers of The Pure are vanishing from Earth. It’s rapture, as predicted in their scriptures. At least that is what the religion’s faithful believe.

To conspiracy theorists, the disappearances are a nefarious government plot. To the government, they’re merely human foul-play. To Reiko Liebenstadt, a disgraced agent at the Federal Protectorate, the mystery is her obsession. On the case that sank her career, she alone witnessed a Purist vanish from a canoe in the middle of a lake.

Reiko’s investigation of The Pure leads her to a world ravaged by disease and war. She uncovers the real reason she was chosen for the assignment, the hidden meanings in the prophecies of the scriptures, and the ultimate fate of those raptured.

The truth is far from heavenly.

{Be forewarned: I’ve tried to keep things very vague, but this review does give away a little more about the plot than the blurb does. Potential spoilers ahead.}

Political intrigue, religious fervor, and the fate of humanity – Rapture is the darkest, heaviest sci-fi action epic I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. Our main character, Reiko, has to live through her own twisted version of the trolley problem, facing tough decision after tough decision as she’s thrust into the center of a spiderweb of factions and agendas she had no idea even existed.

Even better, that spiderweb has been woven with amazing depth and obvious attention to detail.  Wu has created a universe that’s remarkably plausible (obligatory suspension of disbelief aside), which is always a bonus point in my book when it comes to sci-fi. There are no villains-for-villainy’s-sake – every conflict is layered with reasoning and history, making Reiko’s life all the harder as she tries to navigate the minefield.

Wu sketches this conflict in a writing style that’s sparse and clean. It’s a change for me, as I usually prefer denser, more character-focused writing, but it really worked for Rapture. Despite the heavy themes, the pace is punchy and quick, and I devoured it all in just a couple of sittings.

Moral quandaries abound in Rapture, so if you enjoy books that test your core beliefs, look no further. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy hard-hitting fiction that makes you think.

Needs more aliens

Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51, by Helen Culver

130 pages

Published on September 16, 2017 by Troy International Publishing Limited

Amazon | Author’s Website

Melissa is 26, utterly bored, and isn’t far off ending it all with a nail gun.

Her witty, dry and twisted sense of humour gets her through each day. Her diary is an insight to where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, and every desk assessment and alien invasion in-between. Will she reach a truce with Sandra, her arch-rival?

Will she be able to ditch Colin? And can she coax Fran away from turning into a complete psychopath?

I was so intrigued by the premise of this book, but the execution fell rather flat for me. Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51 is episodic, as opposed to having an overarching plotline, and it’s full to bursting with crass humor. I’m not a huge fan of either of those things, but that’s just personal preference, not an issue with the book.

However, the book did have some issues, which is why I’m still not recommending it to those of us who love a good, raunchy, slice-of-life story.

First off, it really needs a proofread; there were grammatical errors all over the place and it quickly became distracting. The more disappointing thing, though, was that the setting felt like an afterthought. I was expecting to be walloped with all the sci-fi mystery of Area 51 – no such luck. Sure, there were funny mentions of alien insurrections here and there, but it was all happening in the background and hardly impacted the characters. Change the setting to a department store in Springfield, and Melissa’s story would’ve been exactly the same.

I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it’s just not there yet.