S.L. Dunn’s Anthem’s Fall (Prospect Hill Press) wants to be a high-concept SF novel. What it actually achieves is more like a bad comic book. Without the pictures.
In New York City, scientist Kristen Jordan (brilliant and beautiful, and very young, of course) is growing increasingly worried about an übertechnology she helped create, as the secretive leader of her research team seems to be developing ever more grandiose objectives. In the parallel world of Anthem, warfare and political collapse are destabilizing an empire. The teaser copy promises us that contending super-entities from Anthem will erupt into our world, requiring Kristen to unleash a technology against them that may be more dangerous than the invaders. DUM DUM DUM! And dumb, dumb, dumb.
But I never got that far. By fifty pages in it was clear that this is one of those books that, as Dorothy Parker put it, should not be lightly tossed aside; rather, it should be hurled with great force. I made myself soldier on a bit after that to give the Anthem-centered part of the narrative a fair shake, but it was no improvement on the parts set in New York City – if anything the smell of bad comic-book got stronger.
About the only good thing that can be said of this book is that the author and/or editors could consistently construct grammatically correct sentences. It’s all downhill from there.
The prose is grindingly leaden and pretentious. The characters, as far as I read, are a Mary Sue and her hunky love interest surrounded by cardboard cutouts. I’ve seen more plausible “science” in a Fantastic Four episode. There are thinly-disguised lectures peddling politics with a heavyhandedness that goes well beyond any plot- or character-development function they might turn out to have later (er, so, do I even need to add that it’s dimwitted politics?) Shopworn tropes lurk on every page. The author managed to tick just about every item on how to do SF wrong I can imagine putting on a checklist, and this is before I got through 15% of the book.
Spare yourself the pain unless you are looking for a horrible example of what not to do in your novel – and if you are, for Goddess’s sake pirate this thing rather than giving the author or publisher one red cent (this is not a recommendation I have ever made before). The last thing the world needs is incentives for more crap like this to get published.