Review: Cerulean Dreams by Dan O’Brien

Cerulean Dreams CoverReview by Matt Schiariti

In the distant future, after what was known as the Water Wars, only one city is left standing:  Orion.  It’s a technological marvel, run by the Cerulean Dreams Corporation.  There is no crime, there is no greed.  The vast corporate entity that is Cerulean Dreams oversees the wellbeing of all Orion’s citizens through an advanced neural network.  People want for nothing.  They don’t even have to opt when to sleep.  They’re told when to sleep.  It sounds like utopia.  But all is not what it seems.

Enter Marlowe and Dana.  Marlow is ex-military, ex-police.  Young women have been going missing in Orion.  Nobody wants to address the disappearances.  Nobody wants to admit there’s a problem in the city without crime.  When he digs further he meets Dana, a young and enigmatic woman who’s frightened and on the run.  She’s on the run from what she calls ‘The Lurking’ because she knows ‘The Truth’.  Her plight becomes Marlowe’s as they attempt the breach the massive wall that surrounds Orion and leads to the vast, deadly desert beyond.  The leader of Cerulean Dreams wants Dana back at all costs and enlists the services of a mysterious and cunning assassin named Armon.  With the assassin hot on their heels, Marlowe and Dana will leave everything they know and brave the arid wastes.  They’ll search for answers and they’ll find them.  But what they find is beyond anything they could have imagined.

I wanted to like this book.  I really wanted to like this book.  As soon as I read the description, I wanted to dive right in.  For a while, I was pleased with the story.  As it opens up in Orion, we’re introduced to the city, its strange futuristic way of life, and the shadowy corporation that runs it.  The author hints at the bigger story but doesn’t give anything away, just placing little hints at the larger picture here and there.  I thought I was in for a very good and wild ride…

And then they left the city.  The latter two thirds of the book are primarily Marlowe and Dana traversing through the desert and what they encounter there.  It’s not a bad thing, but it’s just very, very slow.  That, and it takes what’s set up to be a very fun and exciting science fiction novel and turns it into a quest in which very little happens.  Is there a destination?  Yes.  Do they encounter people out in the barren wasteland?  Yes.  Is the assassin chasing them?  Yes.  It’s just a matter of pacing and setting.  They leave the most interesting location in the story, Orion, very early on.  That’s when I found the story getting bogged down.

Of course, characters are the heart of any good story, and I had issues with them as well.  While I found the writing to be good overall, I found the characters to all read the same.  Once they leave the city, everyone begins to talk more formally, especially Marlowe.  Their dialogue seems overly dramatic and, for lack of a better word, stiff.  ‘I will not.  You shall not, my friend.  I cannot, shaman.’, etc. When everyone speaks that way, all the characters’ voices blend into one; no one character stands out from the rest.  This is really a personal nitpick for me.  When people don’t speak using contractions, it doesn’t sound natural to me.  And when nobody does, it just exacerbates the issue.

I will say that the book is plotted pretty tightly.  No glaring plot bugaboos or anything like that.  But the climax and ending were a little ‘anticlimactic’.

At the end of the day, I was let down by this.  I was completely psyched to read it but between the stilted dialogue, abandoning the coolest set piece of the book entirely too early, and a lackluster showdown/climax sequence, I’m afraid this one gest a low rating from me.

 

Title:  Cerulean Dreams

Author:  Dan O’Brien

Genre:  Science Fiction

Publication:  The Dan O’Brien Project; 2nd Edition (October 2, 2011)

Price:  $4.99 (Kindle), $17 (paperback)

Author’s Website:  http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/

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