Book Review – Machines of Eden by Shad Callister

Title: Machines of Eden
Author: Shad Callister (Blog)
Length: Approximately 70,000 words
Purchase Link: Amazon

Machines of Eden is a fast paced, futuristic thriller with solid prose and an intriguing premise. Fans of military science fiction featuring a lone commando fighting against impossible odds will find plenty to like here.

The story follows John Fletcher, a battle-scarred veteran of a devastating war between the “Grays” and “Greens” (read: haves and have-nots) for control of the planet. A mysterious accident leads to a crash landing of his transport plane, and John wakes to find himself washed up on the shore of a tropical island. But the island is not what it seems (fans of the early seasons of the TV series Lost may feel at home), and soon John is embroiled in a conflict involving killer robots and the island’s caretaker, a women known only as Eve, who claims to be an ally even as she attempts to manipulate him for her own purposes.

Mr. Callister has a gift for clear, easy to read prose, and the action scenes in Eden are well-rendered and realistic. Plenty of detail is provided about the robotic warfare that mankind has initiated, from naming the specific model number of each android to ruminations about the pros and cons of fighting heavy machinery or trying to outwit enemy A.I.s. For the most part though, this detail helps to enhance the setting rather than drag it down. Callister has clearly put a lot of thought into his vision, and it’s difficult to doubt the plausibility of some of his conclusions, as disturbing as they may be.

For me, the weakest parts of the book were the interstitial chapters, which pop up every so often and usually feature short stories or essays, disconnected from the main narrative, which provide background information on the war and Callister’s vision of the future. While these chapters aren’t bad per sethey would have been more interesting had they starred John or the other soldiers in his unit, and they sometimes delivered information that was also revealed in the course of the story. Machines of Eden is clearly not intended to be a character study, but I can’t shake the feeling that these chapters represent a wasted opportunity to develop John further and experience more of what shaped his personality.

Finally, one more minor complaint: the file as sent to me did not contain a table of contents or chapter markings on the progress bar. Including this feature is really a necessity, as readers of e-books do not have the ability to “flip ahead” to see how long they have until the end of a chapter. Hopefully this issue can be fixed in a future edition.

Rating: Four backdoor-enabling Konami codes out of five.

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