Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: 'Price of a Bounty' by S.L. Wallace

I've noticed that my increased writing has led to an increase of reading, along with the new Kindle I received for Christmas.  I have therefore decided to devote a portion of this blog to reviewing books, since I do it so well for movies and TV.

Price of a Bounty
By S.L. Wallace

Keira Maddock is a Freelancer - she takes jobs as they come, and doesn't think too much about the morality of what she does.  She lives a dark future ruled by the elite, where normal people get by on little more than scraps and technology is reserved for those who can afford it.  But when she takes a job to retrieve stolen money and to kill a young man who supposedly robbed a powerful industrialist, she finds herself drawn into the world of the resistance which holds personal revelations for Keira and her family, and could change the face of society.

"Price of a Bounty" is the debut novel by S.L. Wallace.  It's a light, brisk read with some interesting ideas rattling around in its head, a few well-told action sequences and some intriguing world-building.  The characters are mostly well-drawn, though some come across as a little too basic.  Only Keira and her sister really seem to go through any kind of changes in the book, the others are merely there to facilitate those changes.

Where "Price of a Bounty" really succeeds is the strength of its premise and ideas.  Though the world-building can occasionally be a little vague (we never really learn just how far into the future this is, and few details about the 'war' that left things this way) it's generally well-described.  It reminds me a bit of the dirty future of the second "Highlander" movie, though only in its tone and description - this book is nowhere near as bad as that movie is.  But in this book, aside from the "techno" owned by the elite, technology and appliances for the rest of us are old, broken down and unreliable.  In one scene, Keira is delighted to find a working whirlpool tub, of all things.

The political ideas put forth are reminiscent of my own, which I suppose made me more predisposed to enjoy the book.  Here, the ruling class of uncaring elites is opposed by a resistance made up of those who believe that people have a basic value, which is a theme I can identify with.  Wrapped up in a story that is one part sci-fi, one part espionage and probably two-parts romance novel, there's a lot of stuff floating around in "Price of a Bounty" for probably almost anyone to find something they like.

The romantic subplot works well enough, though there's one twist midway through the novel that didn't work for me, and I even saw it coming too far in advance.  I'm certain the novel would be better off without it, since it doesn't even seem to affect the rest of the plot once it occurs.  Still, I applaud the author for the attempt.

Probably the biggest problem I had with the book was initially one of style.  Each chapter is told in first-person from different characters' perspectives.  So one chapter will be from the mind of Keira, one from Scott, one from April, one from Guy, and so forth.  In the beginning, several scenes are repeated from different points of view, but I didn't feel like this was adding much to the proceedings.  This feeling of redundancy tapered off fairly quickly, though, and the book builds up steam toward its ultimate goals.  I say don't let the first few chapters turn you off.

As I said, "Price of a Bounty" is a quick read, and at only $2.99 for Kindle (or free for AmazonPrime members) it's hard to argue with.  Despite some minor problems, I found it enjoyable enough to recommend if you're looking for some romance with a sci-fi angle.

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'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' by Brian Tyler