Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blog Tour: Book Review/Giveaway!! New Frontier, by Jeremy Lee

 Welcome to this stop in the 
New Frontier blog tour, sponsored by Novel Publicity Book Tours!!

 About the Book

New Frontier
Jeremy Lee
Trade Paperback, 286 pages
Neverland Publishing Company
November 12, 2013
Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Book Synopsis As a new era dawns for humanity, finally breaking the bonds that left us tied to the Solar System, this giant leap is to be marred by greed and erupting violence. The new frontier, ripe for colonization and opportunity, is filled with the honest and ruthless alike. Two rival corporations have all but supplanted nation-states, keeping governments around only as a necessary fiction to pacify populations, as the realm of business now reaches into politics, military, religion, and all other aspects of human life. The frontier regions of space, barely able to keep from slipping into total anarchy, are filled with new homesteaders, miners, merchants, bandits, and scientific minds. When one company gains the edge and is the first to crack an engine to bring the Alcubierre formula into reality, and thus travel faster than the speed of light, the rivalry between the two multi-national conglomerates is taken to a dangerous new and martial level. The battle for profits in the market place is now being waged by armies and fleets in space. The Argos, adrift and crippled far from home, is the only hope for its remaining crew. These survivors of a mysterious attack struggle to hold their ship together and come to the rescue of homesteaders and compatriots relying on them. Contrasting with the dubious motivations of those in power, the crew of the Argos are people who crave adventure and are above the miasma of greed that sends them their orders. As the great battle breaks out at the moment that should have been humanity's greatest triumph, the gallant and the selfish alike are forced to face the best and worst of human civilization far from home and decide what they truly believe in.

My Review

Science fiction gives a reader the fascinating opportunity of dealing not only with scientific and technological advances, but also with the timeless existential dilemmas faced by the human race -- extrapolated into a possible future.

Jeremy Lee's latest novel, New Frontier,  is an excellent example of this.  The ever-present themes of greed, violence, the lure of adventure, the relentless human need to create new technological breakthroughs, the coming-of-age passage into adulthood, the power of money to buy nearly everything, the boredom felt by those who live a dissolute life -- all these are dealt with in this novel, which is written in a prose style that often sweeps the reader along in its effortless flow.  

The opening sentences of the first chapter are flawless in their scope and brilliance:  "Space is a silent and vastly dead expanse, yet filled with marvels of life, twists of physics, furnaces of unimaginable fire, and wastelands of matter-shattering cold.  There is no greater ocean for humanity to sail, no more perilous journey, and none more yearned for by generation upon generation.  Tentative steps into the endless frontier inevitably are loosened into giant leaps, but adventure brings with it failures as often as glory."  These words aptly express the feelings of those who are pulled by the lure of the unknown, risky as it might be to pursue.  They were also written by a master prose stylist.

Lee's characters are embodiments of the themes he portrays in this book, and they are appropriately drawn from several different nationalities and ethnic groups.  There's Davi Cardoso, the nearly incorrigible Brazilian playboy.  There's Suresh Singh, the gentle, boyish scientist from India.  Cameron Eyre, the idealistic Australian, is totally dedicated to his duty.   Most of all, however, this novel is remarkable for its very strong, very memorable female characters.  There's Shannon Drake, from England, who turns her back on love because of the allure of space travel.  There's Wangari, the timid Kenyan mechanic-cum-spaceship engineer.  "Danny" Morgan, an American, whose real first name is Danielle, gets away with making her own rules as she goes along.  And then there's Rimiko Mamiya, the brilliant, as well as arrogant, Japanese surgeon.

All of the characters mentioned above are on the side of good, and are realistically depicted, with a mixture of strengths and weaknesses.  The evil characters, in contrast, are more one-dimensional, more stereotyped.  It's obvious that Lee feels no sympathy for them -- they are all depicted as self-serving, uncaring of the suffering they might cause to millions, since it's their ruthless ambition for power and profits that dominates their existence.

The book's main storyline is the launching of the very first spaceship that can reach speeds faster than the speed of light.  This is due to the invention of what Lee calls "the Alcubierre Drive".  There are other mechanisms aboard the Argos that hint at very advanced technology, such as the "anti-matter reactor", "matrix and positron conduits", and "the FTL drive".  As I read, I was at times reminded of my favorite TV series -- "Star Trek" (the original version).  The situations that the crew of the Argos had to deal with also reminded me of the series.  However, Lee has created his own original SF universe here.  The time period is never mentioned, or even alluded to.  From the technology involved, it might be about 100 to 200 years in the future. 

The novel's structure is a highly unusual one; Lee tells his story through a series of flashbacks, going back and forth between present time and the past.  These flashbacks serve the purpose of giving the reader more information and insights into the events and characters of the novel, although I found them hard to get used to, at first.  As I went further into the book, though, I could see that they did indeed serve a useful purpose.  

For instance, Chapter One is titled, simply, "Now", and opens on the aftermath of the explosion that has crippled the Argos.  Chapter Two is titled "Three Years Earlier", introducing one of the novel's villains, the coldly brutal assassin, Grover Grisham.  Chapter Three is titled "Fifteen Years Earlier", and introduces another of the characters on the side of good -- the Mexican, Hector de Anza, one of the crew members of the Argos.

The rest of the novel is structured in this way.  This type of thing is reminiscent of techniques long used in film and television, which have been influencing the writing of fiction for many years now.  Mr. Lee certainly has made very effective use of them.

There were a couple of things I thought were drawbacks, although, as a whole, I did like the novel.  

One of these has to do with the matter of a reader's all-important suspension of disbelief.  There's an incident early in the book, which involves some of the characters breaking into the Louvre Museum.  As part of their escapade, one of them defaces a painting -- Delacroix's "Death of Sardanapalus" -- with a pen, and later actually manages to topple the sculpture, "Winged Victory of Samothrace", from its high pedestal.  It falls to the floor and shatters into many pieces.

I realize that the author was trying to make the reader feel rage and contempt for the perpetrator of these crimes.  However, The Louvre Museum is one of the most important museums in the world.  Surely such an important institution would have the most stringent security measures, especially in a future as technologically advanced as the one presented in this novel.

As for the toppling of the "Winged Victory of Samothrace", I don't see how one person, without the aid of any special equipment, could possibly move such a large statue, and one made of marble, at that.  (See A Closer Look at the Winged Victory of Samothrace.)

Another aspect of the book that I'm not totally comfortable with is the author's portrayal of the hypocritical pastor, Reverend Higgle.  This character is, at best, a cardboard figure, a totally stereotypical fundamentalist Christian preacher.  Lee does portray a very positive Christian character -- Hector de Anza, so I would not say that he has an anti-Christian bias; instead, he seems to be satirizing televangelists, in particular.  Still, I really think his implied criticism of all fundamentalist preachers is a sweeping generalization.

In spite of the above objections, I can honestly say that I have greatly enjoyed reading this novel!  It's an ambitiously grand one, a tale of humanity's ultimate adventure, in the midst of a greedy, international war for profits, undertaken without regard to the cost in human lives.  Its characters, both good and bad, prove that human nature is basically the same, in spite of great strides made in technology and science.  In the final analysis, it's still the clash of ideologies that drives the course of human history.  

In this novel, the great evil is what Lee himself terms "capitalist anarchy".   I totally agree with him on this.  In fact, I firmly believe that any extreme -- whether of the left or the right -- can really hurt any society based on democratic principles.  Capitalism, when it runs amok, can be just as destructive of human hopes and aspirations as communism, and this is just as true in Lee's future society.

This novel raises some very thought-provoking questions,  as great science fiction should, since this genre has always been primarily a literature of ideas.  New Frontier is an excellent example of this tradition, and I recommend it to those avid SF fans who like such masters of the genre as Heinlein and Asimov!



Reviewer's Note

I would like to thank Mr. Lee
for providing a copy of this novel, in
return for an honest review.
I would also like to thank
Novel Publicity Tours for inviting me
to participate in this tour! 

Jeremy Lee

About the Author

Jeremy Lee was born in Odessa, Texas, but grew up in New Mexico.  Throughout his childhood, he was strongly influenced by his grandmother's love of history and his mother's love of reading, both of which he took up early in life.  Inheriting a work ethic from his father which served him well in the manic world of theater, Jeremy started his professional career writing for the stage, first in Denver and then in small New York venues while attending the New York School for Film and Television.  He currently lives once more in Denver, writing ferociously when he can't find an excuse to be in the middle of nowhere fishing or getting blissfully lost in a museum.
His previous novels are: Kings of New York (2012), Where I'm Bound I Can't Tell (2011), and
Stage Door (2011).

Online Links

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$50 Amazon gift cards,
or an autographed copy of 
New Frontier!!
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Good luck to everyone!!!!

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  1. Great commentary Maria!

    This sounds really good! Though it obviously deals with some of the more negative aspects of humanity it is refreshing to hear about a contemporary book that does not take place in a completely dystopian future where humankind has nearly destroyed everything.

    Too bad that there were some unbelievable aspects to the plot. Also the stereotypical character does indeed sound like a flaw in narrative. Even as someone such as myself, whose worldview conflicts in many ways with religious fundamentalism, as I get older I become more and more frustrated with this kind of writing. The world is too complex a place for this to be believable, at least in this type of contemporary novel.

  2. Hey, Brian!

    Oh, thank you so much!! I greatly appreciate it!!

    This IS very good!! In fact, it's EXCELLENT!! As you saw from the quote I included in the review, the prose is of the highest quality! The plot itself is complex but absolutely fascinating. Once you get used to the various flashbacks, you definitely will lose touch with 'the real world', because you will be totally immersed in the world of this novel!

    Yes, it's too bad the author included the Louvre incident.....it's just not believable. As for the stereotyped preacher, that, too, was a bit disappointing. In spite of these two things, however, I felt the novel fully deserved the five stars. It's just a very compelling story! Can you imagine what it would mean, for a spaceship to travel FASTER than the speed of light? I know we who are hardcore SF fans have read so many science fiction books, and so many "Star Trek" episodes, that we really take this for granted. But this has not yet been accomplished in the real world!! The way Lee describes all the events in his book just has such a strong sense of reality, that I can see it all happening, exactly the way he describes it!

    In short, I would definitely recommend this novel to you. Believe me, you WILL enjoy it! So hop on to the "Argos" for the ride of your life!! Live long and prosper, fellow Trekkie!!!!! : )

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book and found it compelling! Thanks for being part of the tour!

    1. Hey, Nai!

      OMG, I hadn't seen your comment until today......don't know how I missed it!

      Yes, I greatly enjoyed this novel! You're very welcome for my participation! And thanks to you for stopping by and commenting!! : )


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