Book Review: Ethan: Site 39 by Otis V. Goodwin
In the near future Earth is destroyed by an asteroid. Luckily for humanity, a group of people had already departed for Alpha Centauri to colonize the two stars found there. After losing contact with the few survivors, the Centaurians believed Earth to be uninhabited. Five thousand years later, their descendants return to an Earth that has recovered from the chaos caused by the asteroid to begin the work of reinhabiting it. When Ethan, one of the colonists, stumbles upon a residence dug into a mesa made of granite, everything the Centaurians believe about what occurred on Earth in relation to the asteroid is challenged.
I really wanted this to be a good book. First I’m a big supporter of indie and self-publishing, as I often find the stories more creative and thought-provoking than those published by big publishing houses. (See my review of Vow of Silence for evidence of that). I also thought it was an intriguing scifi storyline. Unfortunately, Goodwin can’t write.
Oh, he can come up with a great idea for a story, but his writing is terrible. First, he tells us instead of showing us. For instance, he’ll say things like “Ethan was thinking how worried he was,” instead of, you know, letting us see Ethan’s worried thoughts. Whole parts of the story that would have been fun to read in addition to making the book longer he sums up by telling us about it in a couple of sentences, such as “They talked about their planned future together” instead of letting us read the conversation.
Not that I would have wanted to read the conversation anyway, because the dialogue is atrocious. Every character sounds like an automaton. They never use a contraction or a simile or anything really that makes a human sound human. Goodwin tries to explain this as language changing, but even when we flash back to see characters from the time of the asteroid, they speak in exactly the same robotic manner.
The book blurb says that Goodwin is retired from the military, and it frankly shows. In some ways, this is good. The military portions in the asteroid flashback are clearly written by someone who knows the military. However, mostly it’s just a rabid conservatism showing. We’re talking a world in which the small population of humans rebuilding all automatically fall in love with someone of the opposite gender and that love is automatically, wholeheartedly returned. It’s like the man never got past the fairy tales told to little girls to realize that that doesn’t happen perfectly for everybody in real life. Real life just doesn’t work out that perfectly for everyone. It makes all of the characters unbelievable, whereas having one true love situation would be believable.
Of course, there is no saving the wretched female characters. Goodwin seems to be only capable of writing the completely helpless sobbing woman or a woman who is essentially a dude with boobs. God forbid a woman be strong and feminine simultaneously.
I feel kind of bad saying all of this, because his overall storyline really is good and creative. It’s what kept me reading the book in spite of cringing and rolling my eyes. What Goodwin should have done is acquired a writing partner who could write his storyline on the sentence level well. Then he would have had a great book. Unfortunately, he didn’t do that.
2 out of 5 stars
Source: Free copy from book promotion agent via LibraryThing‘s EarlyReviewers Member Giveaway program.