I don’t review books; I edit them. As an editor, my job is to critique for a living, so I find all manner of nits I can pick at. So critiquing clients’ projects…just not a good idea. But today, I’m breaking that rule. Today is relaunch day for Ralph Kern’s book, Endeavour. I did the final copyedit and “Americanized” the book (a little harder than just running spell checker, it turned out, but I digress).
In my thirty years of editing, this book was my favorite project. I found it to be a page turner. Even when I came to the end of my editing day and had to stop working, I would read just a few more pages ahead as a sneak peek for the next day’s work. As it did for other reviewers (on Amazon), Endeavour reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, one of my favorite SF books ever.
The Premise. The book starts with mankind about to take first steps into the stars. They are looking to answer the Fermi paradox: Where is everybody? Through the book, we follow the team as they get closer and closer to answering the question. We also watch as the people of earth leap into the future and pass by our team who, as a byproduct of relativistic time issues, become one-way time travelers.
The Strengths. As many have noted, Ralph Kern has paid attention to the science in his science fiction. The science he portrays, as he explains in the afterword, is a projection of the science being posited today. This imparts a very real and solid feel to the story. His writing style is clean and crisp—very easy to read. Finally the story that ultimately unfolds is interesting and compelling. I was sorry to reach the end.
The Weaknesses. Three weaknesses have been brought up more than once in the reviews. First, the characterization had been criticized. I will grant that the characterization is a lighter element, but not a weakness. The characters convey the story well, and I grew to care about them. I did ask Ralph to insert a few lines here and there to aid with this issue, but overall, the novel is story-driven, not character-driven, and it worked well. I say this as a person who usually prefers character-driven recreational reading. Second, Ralph’s regional habits of grammar and word use (and we all have those) have been dinged as intrusive. Ralph worked hard with me on smoothing these over. I don’t expect this is a problem anymore. Third and finally, the editing has been a touchstone of complaint. Two editors have now reviewed it, so I expect the editing will no longer interfere with the read.
All in all, I really feel that Ralph has captured some of the flavor of the heyday of SF and the midcentury greats, then modernized it for today’s audiences. This is true hard science fiction, driven by story and science, and one very enjoyable read.
Ralph Kern’s ebook may be ordered at Amazon.