Indie Authors

The Belial Stone by R.D. Brady

3 stars out of 5

There is something comforting in a formula, especially when you have a lot going on and just want to decompress with a book rather than analyze every word. I often call it fluff reading, something I have done a lot of since my son was born ten months ago. “The Belial Stone” is not remarkable in the sub genre of archaeological thrillers. You won’t find anything revolutionary here, it sits firmly in the shadow of stories like “The DaVinci Code”, “The Relic”, and “Last Templar”. That being said, I did enjoy it quite a bit as a diversion.

The characters are not really complex. R.D. Brady attempted to add some complexity and mystery, but ultimately missed. The bad guys are selfish, evil, and bad in every way. The good guys are good without fail. Jake is willing to drop everything and believe almost anything to find his brother. Laney will get justice for her friend, even if it kills her. Those on the side of the light have no qualms about risking everything to save each other as well as strangers. The cast of characters is fairly dynamic and includes a warrior priest who specializes in religious archaeology, a hyper-intelligent teenage boy, and a lovable, mysterious giant who knows more about what is going on than he is telling (If you pay attention to the not subtle foreshadowing, you will likely guess why, even if it is not resolved by the end of the book). A few other characters show up to entertain, but I don’t want to spoil those who don’t wish to be spoiled.

I found the characters enjoyable through most of the story. Some of them have their moments. Jake is a bit more macho than I like prefer male leads. He has a protective streak that he cannot help but focus on Laney, the resident damsel in distress. He is not alone. All of the male characters, save for the baddies, feel a strong need to protect her. Jake actually comes to the realization that she needs protecting shortly after they meet, despite the obvious fact that she could hold her own in a fight with some mad martial arts skills. The inevitable and predictable romance springs up too quickly and feels a bit forced.

R.D. Brady plays with and mixes together two different mythologies. The story of Atlantis, and Christian myths. She does it beautifully and presents enough theoretical evidence to make it seem plausible.  My only nitpick is that all of the characters talk about, or accept, fringe archaeological theories as if they were well known facts. I love reading “Ancient Aliens” style theories, but it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a “Some people believe…” every once in a while. I found myself thinking “I’ve never heard of that,” a few times when sites I had read or watched documentaries came up. Being the curious sort, I left the story for a bit to look it up. Still, I was ultimately a fan of the archaeological bread crumbs strewn throughout the story.

The eBook is only 4.99 on Amazon and is a Kindle Unlimited story, so it also makes it into my list of decent bargain books. If you want a fun beach or airport read, or something to chill on the couch with, this is definitely a book to consider. If you are looking for something unpredictable that makes you think about each clue, look elsewhere.

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Hugh Howey’s Half Way Home

3.5 Stars out of 5

Howey strikes again with a unique futuristic world colored with shades of dystopia. In this world, life is cheap. Interspatial exploration is driven by corporate needs, and patents are are so highly valued that they are worth killing for. His world is engrossing and unique. I don’t think I have seen one quite like it before. And there, I think, is the biggest problem I had with this book. I found “Half Way Home” to be an easy read. I sped through it. But, I wanted more. I wanted to intimately understand the motivations of a society who would spend millions of dollars mounting an expedition that more often than not would result in the total and deliberate destruction of all equipment and human capital associated with the mission. Instead, the story focused mostly on the main character, Porter, and his group of friends as they struggled to find  the reason for their existence.

I normally love a good character driven space drama. Unfortunately, the characters in “Half Way Home” fell a bit flat for me. I never felt connected to Porter or his cohorts. Their vocabulary and actions were at odds with circumstances of their birth and creation as explained at the beginning of the novel. They seemed almost too contemporary. There was also some uncomfortable gender stereotyping peppered throughout the novel that also did not seem to fit into the world Howey created.

Overall, the problems I had were not enough to completely diminish my enjoyment of the book. I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to know what happened in the end. Most of all, II wanted an answer to the mystery. I enjoyed the setting. And, as usual, I enjoyed Howey’s writing style. Fans of Wool and Sand might be underwhelmed. Young adult readers, and those looking for a quick and enjoyable sci-fi that they don’t need to think too much about will find it right up their alley.

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