Review: Algorithm

AlgorithmAlgorithm by Arthur M. Doweyko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well written story of intrigue surrounding an ancient artifact that pre-dates human civilization and hints at panspermia theory. The characters are a bit bland because they just run around a lot and don’t talk about their motivations, they just seem to react to things and follow a script. There’s one Nazi-like bad guy who gives chase.

The first half of the book is a bit slow: they narrowly escape capture, an explosion in a science lab, only to find a friend has died, and then he comes back to life, and the bad guys catch them, then they escape, then they are captured again, and it’s a bit hard to stick with it until the halfway point.

I’m focusing on some nit-picky details, which is unfair to the author, but these are the reasons it took a bit longer to read than expected. There’s intelligence behind the words and a real attempt to please the reader. A lot of time and effort obviously went into this grandiose, eons-spanning story. I enjoy grandiose! Just a bit more depth in the characters would have made it more believable.

This is good no-nonsense sci-fi written from a scientific perspective. There are parts that move along a bit too slowly but the pace keeps the reader’s interest because you expect a payoff. I feel that the premise could have been better used/exploited to engage the reader into the mystery of the ancient gold medallion. Introducing an antagonist early on with quite shallow motives to chase the protagonists around might have been better delayed a few chapters to build up the intrigue around the medallion and get the reader more engaged in the characters and their lives, to explore other avenues of possibility.

Instead, it’s a rather sequential, direct approach regarding the antag and a secretive benefactor who is eventually revealed. No other parties are in play. We are never told why anyone cares about the medallion. We are never told how the pieces go together–to make some sort of machine? If so, wouldn’t it be tiny? And what was its purpose? Even after reaching the end, the little machine that the medallion was part of was never explained. What’s the rod for? I wanted to know these things. Curiosity piqued and never satisfied. Missed opportunity. But it’s a first work from this author and good as such, especially for an indie.

My only major reservation about the story is due to the physics since relativity is conveniently ignored while the author sticks with a hard sci-fi approach. Can’t really have it both ways–realistic propulsion without time dilation doesn’t exist without some sort of warp drive or hyperdrive. Granted, most readers may not pay any attention to such details but if you’re going for a hard sci-fi crowd, and a ship goes near lightspeed with traditional propulsion, there’s time dilation. You can’t just ignore that.

The novel really picks up in the last third where the revelation of events are told and it’s quite a page turner at that point. I found the ending a bit disappointing but it was basically satisfying.

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