Another man now spoke out loudly, clearly and confidently. The Mediterranean skinned woman who had discussed the invisibility experiment turned to look and appeared to recognise the new speaker, although he did not acknowledge her. He had listened intently to Paul throughout the lecture and remained thoughtful during the open question session but now had a burning question to ask.
“Dr. Eldridge, I find your lecture and quantum physics fascinating. May I pose a philosophical question?”
“I’m open to any question a person may wish to ask,” Paul replied, watching the woman who had just disclosed a top secret project to him begin to walk towards the door.
“These electromagnetic fields and quantum particles you spoke of,” the questioner continued, “and even the ether… could they form the basis of the human soul?”
Excerpt from Seven Point Eight, by Marie Harbon
Thus begins a journey for Dr. Paul Eldridge that will challenge his beliefs in a monumental way. Seven Point Eight, by Marie Harbon, is my first installment for The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012, which I am getting into a wee bit late. This is my entry for the science fiction genre, although there is a healthy dose of paranormal mixed in as well.
The events in the novel revolve around the question posed above, as Eldridge attempts to discover the science behind the paranormal. His experiments, and the people he meets, lead the search in some unintended directions, and the novel’s cliffhanger ending ensures that there will be many more surprises to come.
This is a long book with an epic scale, which spans decades from the forties to the eighties, and involves several point-of-view characters and subplots. It’s not a light read, but it is entertaining and engrossing. Also of note, the book’s subtitle, The First Chronicle, promises more installments–as does its ending.
In short, the book is something of an investment for the reader. It proved to be an investment that I was glad to make.
Ms. Harbon manages to take the threads of an epic story and weave them together with skill. The story jumps back-and-forth between decades, yet the story line never gets lost. In addition, she is adept at helping her reader experience the different eras through references to music and film, fashion, and historical events. At times this seems a bit heavy in exposition, but it works well.
She also handles the transition between points-of-view expertly, with distinctive character voices–and some interesting character quirks. The novel alternates between journal entries and actual narrative, and does so successfully, adding dimension to the characters.
On top of all of this, it’s just a darned good story.
There just isn’t any worth mentioning. But… see below.
Yeah, that’s right: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. As I was writing this review, I realized that I needed something to differentiate between a novel’s bad stuff and, well, the ugly stuff. I put the stuff that makes the story not-so-great under The Bad, and mechanical problems–editing issues, mostly–under The Ugly.
The ugly in Seven Point Eight is almost entirely entrenched in its punctuation, and particularly comma usage. Generally, this kind of thing would float under my radar; an occasional misspelled word or run-on sentence won’t bother me, and I’ve read more than a few books published by mainstream houses with notable errors, not to mention independently published works.
In fact, I’d only ever mention this sort of thing if it distracts from the reading. And these did. Compounded with the length of the book, the punctuation issues stood out, and I can say with confidence that the strength of the story is what made me decide to continue on with reading.
It should be noted that almost as soon as I had finished reading Seven Point Eight, Ms. Harbon released a second edition, a copy of which she graciously forwarded to me (I read the Kindle e-book version). As she stated there were some significant changes in the story, I re-read the book, and my hopes were that one of the changes would be a correction of the punctuation issues. Although some may have been addressed, the problems were still distracting.
I give Seven Point Eight, by Marie Harbon, three out of five stars. Based on the story and narrative skill alone, I would award it a perfect five. In the end, I am looking forward to the next book in the series–and hoping for a less distracting experience.