Book Review: Adjacent Fields by Charles Barouch

Adjacent Fields by Charles Barouch

From Amazon: 
The business of Teleportation. Imagine if someone invented a teleportation device and their first thought had to be: How do I market this? What if you couldn't use a teleporter because governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it? Rama and Walter are standing at the cusp of changing the world – if they can just get the funding.

  • Print Length: 219 pages
  • Publisher: HDWP Books (December 12, 2012)

This is a mid-line science-fiction. By mid-line, I mean that it shares characteristics of hard science fiction and soft science fiction. This review will have ups and downs, so buckle in and enjoy the ride.

The first thing I want to talk about is the premise ofAdjacent Fields. When I read a novel — especially a Sci-Fi or Fantasy — I look for how much the premise of the story intrigues me. This is a bad developmental editor habit of mine. Developmental editors live and breathe concept and premise, as our job is to turn these things into something really worthwhile. If the premise of the novel is strong enough, I can read through almost anything.

The premise of Adjacent Fields is rather interesting. Not exactly world shattering, but it’s something that intrigued me and piqued my curiosity. For a Sci-Fi, that’s important, especially for a Sci-Fi that is more about ideas than it is about storytelling. If you enjoy books that get to the chase and pursue ‘what-if’ questions and ‘ideas’, Adjacent Fields delivers in spades.

What it doesn’t deliver is the depth of characterization and storytelling that I enjoy about softer science fictions. This is why I view it as a mid-line. It brings up the situations I’d expect out of a Space Opera (except that it never leaves Earth…!) while trying to match the harder political and technological science fiction pieces. In the effort to try to blend these two things, I am left with the feeling that neither is accomplished as fully as they could be. The harder elements of the Sci-Fi came through clearer.

Charles Barouch delivers well-written report-style writing that fits well with the technological elements of a hard Sci-Fi. The closer he gets to technology and descriptions of devices, the better the writing gets. But, it is this very skill that makes the story harder to read in terms of characterization and setting. It is also something that makes his narrative struggle, especially when there are more than two characters in a scene at any given point. The reports included – be it through governmental agencies or communications between characters – showcase his history as a writer working in the field.

One of the notable problems with this story, I think, is that it takes such an epic scope that characters are left by the wayside. By the end of it, there are so many POVs that it is like trying to piece together a puzzle in the dark. And not one of those 25 piece ones, the 1,000 piece puzzles where you’re praying that you haven’t lost a piece in the five years it takes to put the thing together!

There’s definitely an audience for this sort of book – especially among those who love science fiction that deal with ideas with characters being a way to bring these ideas to the table.

I’m the type of reader who likes, above all, characters, action, and world building. Dry politics and intrigue only work for me if your name is “Tom Clancy” and the character happens to be “Jack Ryan”. Most importantly, the intrigue must always move the story forward. That is something Clancy excels at. The details he provides, and even the red-herring conversations, always move things forward. Why do I like this? Because he manages to blend characters, action, and intrigue. The stakes are high, the tension is high, and there are many reasons for me to want to keep reading.

Another book that I think succeeds at the blend of characterization and inclusion of drier politics and ideas is A Thousand Words for Stranger, which is something a bit closer to Space Opera than hard science fiction, but does still include some interesting elements to it that lets it approach a more mid-line level.

Adjacent Fields didn’t accomplish that for me. The characters aren’t shown in depth, and in the interest of moving forward with the ideas presented in the novel, the base intrigue and pursuit of the conflict points of the novel, I often got the sense that they were the means to an end, rather than the true focus of the story.

As I mentioned above, and it’s worth mentioning again, the major redeeming factor of this book does relate to the ideas it presents. The technology is both simplistic yet complex, playing with higher forms of science in a way that people like me (who aren’t so well versed) can understand it easily enough. The twist at the end is thought provoking, which is important for a book of this nature.

At the end of the day, though, I wasn’t really the ideal audience for this book, and my reactions to it are those of someone who does prefer softer Sci-Fi — preferably Space Opera. Still, I came away with some interesting tidbits from the book, which is always important.

I think the types of people who will enjoy this book are those with a more scientific bent, who want an ‘at arm’s length’ separation from the pursuit of ideas and the characters. I don’t think it is the ideal book for those who like pure, soft science fiction and stories that focus less on the science and more on the relationship of characters and the situations they endure.

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