Friday, May 13, 2011

Soul Identity, by Dennis Batchelder

Title: Soul Identity
Author: Dennis Batchelder
Rating: 3/5 Riots
Format: Kindle
Price: Free

Plot Blurb: You can't take it with you...but what if you could?

Most people believe their souls outlive their bodies. Most people would find an organization that tracks their souls into the future and passes on their banked money and memories compelling.

Scott Waverly isn't like most people. He spends his days finding and fixing computer security holes. And Scott is skeptical of his new client's claim that they have been calculating and tracking soul identities for almost twenty-six hundred years.

Are they running a freaky cult? Or a sophisticated con job?

Scott needs to save Soul Identity from an insider attack. Along the way, he discovers the importance of the bridges connecting people's lives.

Review: This was one of the first works that I picked up from Amazon, most notably because it was one of the few freebies of modern fiction that I could find at the time. For the price, I have to admit to not being disappointed by Soul Identity, however as a whole it's just... Meh.

For the most part the protagonist (Scott Waverly) moves through the story like a greased-up technophilic superman. He has no flaws. Many chapters end with his getting his Input/Output on with a hot-nerd Russian programmer named Val. He's always one or two steps ahead of the villain. Scott smacks of Mary-Sue because of these things. The only thing he doesn't seem to know about is the 2600-year-old conspiracy that everyone else seems to know about.

Some of the characters, beyond the protagonist, seem a tad cardboard. We do not meet the villain until the end so he seems rather one-dimensional. He's cool and collected when we first meet him, but he quickly turns into Snidely Whiplash by the end. Another character that is totally unbelievable is Bob, a Soul Identity errand boy. He switches his entire world-view in under two days, using the excuse that he's "grown" a lot during that time. Bullshit. World-views tend to be set pretty solid without some sort of soul-shattering event that makes one question that world-view.

The plot does not feel organic; it feels scripted, almost too convenient. We move from event to event without any real feeling of complication. Obstacles that are put before the protagonists are torn down like paper. For example, toward the end Scott and Val are thrown off of the Soul Identity campus and ordered not to return, however, Scott socially engineers his way back in via the guy who threw them out in the first place. Too convenient... Too scripted. Thus, reading Soul Identity feels like reading source code instead of a book:

10 print "Here is a supposed complication."
20 x = plot_complication_solution
30 if scott = x then print "Scott wins!"; goto 10
40 if val = x then print "Val Wins!"; goto 10
50 print "*** Error *** We should never reach line 50."

Beyond these issues, the book was "fun" and mildly entertaining, and even humorous in some spots. I would encourage Batchelder to continue writing and honing his craft, but I doubt that I'm personally going to shell out 3 bucks for the sequel to this novel. You might feel differently, so give it a shot, at least.

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