fragment: a review

I’ve had a bit of free time lately due to work: I check people in at the beginning of trips, and then I clean…and then I sit, and wait for the trips to get back. Usually about an hour, but an hour a day means I’m finishing books with some regularity for the first time in a few months. Anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes the books I read a quality read…because honestly, I’ve read a lot of good books, some of which has been sheer luck, but most of which is due to my Dad’s great taste in books.

So, a review. On Fragment, by Warren Fahy

***

The jacket summary:

STRAIGHT OUT OF TOMORROW’S HEADLINES, A HEART-POUNDING ADVENTURE AND A BREATHLESS, RACE-AGAINST-THE-CLOCK JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERIES OF SCIENCE.

In this powerhouse of suspense — as briliantly imagined as Jurassic Park and The Ruins — scientists have made a startling discovery: a fragment of a lost continent, an island with an ecosystem unlike any they’ve seen before…an ecosystem that could topple ours like a house of cards.

The time is now. The place is the Trident, a long-range research vessel hired by the reality TV show Sealife. Aboard is a cast of ambitious youg scientists. With a director dying for drama, tiny Henders Island might just be what the show needs. Until the first scientist sets foot on Henders — and the ultimate test of survival begins…

For when they reach the island’s shores, scientists are utterly unprepared for what they find — creatures unlike any ever recorded in natural history. This is not a lost world frozen in time, an island of mutants, or a lab where science has gone mad: this is the earth as it might have looked after evolving on a separate path for half a billion years

Soon the scientists will stumble on something more shocking than anything humanity has ever encountered: because among the terrors of Henders Island, one life form defies any scientific theory — and must be saved at any cost.

It’s like Jurassic Park meets Science Fiction meets Reality TV show. Kind of.

The premise of the book is that there is an unexplored island (Hender’s Island) in the Pacific — unexplored because it was so small and out of the way, and relatively challenging to access. A reality TV show happens upon the island and begins to explore in search of adventure and mystery, and all but two of those reality TV explorers are killed on live TV within five minutes of landing on the island. It instantly draws the attention of the entire world — this tiny little island in the middle of nowhere.¬† The island is inhabited by species entirely different from those we know; these species are more aggressive and more powerful and more dangerous than anything on the rest of planet Earth. As the scientists learn more about the island, it is clear that the island is a biohazard which would wipe out life as we know it, and a tough decision must be made: save and study this new and unique biodiversity, or nuke the planet and save ourselves.

It’s a little challenging to become attached to any particular characters, due to the fact that the point of view changes so frequently (sometimes multiple times in a page). The closest thing to a protagonist is Nell, a botanist whose goal in life is to discover a new species of flower to name after her mother, who died when she was young from an animal attack. Nearly every character in this novel has both virtues and flaws. One of my favorite characters is Dr. Redmond, who is also probably the only character without virtues — but he is such a terrible, self-centered, idiotic person that it is only possible to giggle at his thoughts, actions, and speeches, which are riddled with gems of absurdity. The character interactions are, for the most part, believable — I mean, the token romance of the novel is set up before the two characters ever meet, making it a bit cliche, but that’s probably my biggest complaint.

There are a lot of interesting scientific debates in this book. One particularly poignant topic is the value of species diversity versus the value of human life. The species on this island would certainly wipe out human and animal life as we know it, but is the human race more important than these incredible and unique species? There’s also a good discussion about intelligent life, and a few other scientific discussions which are based on interesting premises. Of course, these discussions read a little like the author’s personal theories, and the writing tends to emphasize them as more radical than they really are, but they are good interesting scientific discussions none-the-less.

More impressive than the scientific debates, though, is the actual science. Much of what I read in this book is not only accurate, but well described in layman’s terms. Fahy, I think, was very aware that many people who read his novel would not understand the science unless he really “dumbed it down,” but also aware that those who understood the science would be outspoken about anything which was wrong. He spoke about many things I learned in biology this year, in fact, which just tickled me. Yes, tickled.

Mostly I love the twist that the jacket cover hints at. I won’t give it aware, I swear — but I really love where the author takes it. At that moment, all the seemingly separate scientific debates that the author has brought up throughout the book come together and become so much more complicated.

All in all, I found it a good read. It had its flaws — like the mostly useless and frequently overused time stamps, which mostly served the purpose of changing the point of view — but the science was good, the writing was solid, and the characters were entertaining…but really, most important of all, the science was well-integrated with the story, making it a quality novel in its genre. I’d definitely recommend this novel to any reader, but most especially to those who have a thing for environmental science or realistic, modern-day science fiction.

Also, I gotta say: I love the art. Here are a few samples! For more, go here! And for bigger images, click on the pictures. I have a hard time choosing between the second and the third pictures as my favorite…(warning…these photos are technically spoilers. But the art really is beautiful…)

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