Joseph Mitchell, author of Shard Mountain, is a lifelong fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories, both books and movies. A long-time computer geek and tabletop role-playing gamer, his hobbies include computer animation and first-person-shooter level design. A reclusive hermit who lives a boring life, existing almost entirely in cyberspace. Currently, he lives in northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife, two cats, and a dog, spending most of his free time in front of a computer working on various projects. Shard Mountain is his first novel.
Well, I can't say I didn't tear through this book; because I did. Mitchell sets up some interesting characters and plot lines and then takes the reader tearing along with him. However, even a moderate edit would have made that a more enjoyable ride.
Initially the three main characters are relatively believable. But only one of them, Charles, seemed to grow in any appreciable way, though his passage from indolent loser to altruistic hero strains credulity more than surviving 500 years in cryogenic stasis.
Jake the stoner seems lifted from the Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure handbook. Actually, the author himself couldn't help himself presenting Jake as a Keanu Reeves character synthesis; right down to the author's slightly breathless description of his good looks and hot body. In the beginning I was getting a slight vibe that the Jake might be black, which would have made for a refreshing change in the all-white (except for green, of course) world of science fiction, but in fact I was relieved that that wasn't supported as Jake turned into stoner Keanu Reeves instead.
The prison guard, Parker, seemed to me the character with the most interesting potential for development , but his character collapsed into utter flatness about halfway through and was never resuscitated.
And the lesser characters. Come on! The sexy older lady is named Giz? Giz? For reals? Brother Kevin's relentless goodness is not explained by his past. Trying to be good, yes, but being so bloody selfless all the time, no.
I found myself believing in the bonding and friendships throughout. Who couldn't survive an attack by sabre toothed bunnies and not feel closer to his mates? But mates, it turns out, can only be so close.Read more ›
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Joseph Mitchell has crafted a wonderful piece of work with Shard Mountain. Reading this book is like watching a master juggler at work. He keeps dozens of creative balls, artistic daggers and literary chainsaws in the air simultaneously. And drops nary a one.
The story centers around two petty criminals, Charles and Jake, who meet on their bus ride to prison. One is a geek with too many unpaid tickets; the other, a stoner who jaywalked at the absolute worst time. The bus is in an accident with a military convoy and the pair, along with one of their guards, wakes up 571 years later. Mutants, mind reading, and mayhem ensue.
In telling this tale, Mitchell requires his readers to engage all seven senses (and then some) as he describes his version of Earth in the year 2581. The post apocalyptic world that he creates is vivid, lush and full of imaginative wonders. Similar to the world of Dune that Frank Herbert created more than forty years ago, this version of earth is as much a character in this book as any named protagonist.
As for flaws, there weren't many. There were a few typos, but they were easily steamrolled by the tale. Also, this book is longer than most. Not a negative by itself, but there are one or two areas that could be trimmed without hurting the story. Other than those minor items, this book was darn near perfect. One of the best books I have read in a long time. Which is why I am giving it a very solid 5 stars!
The book suffers an identity crisis. Does it want to be post apocalyptic drama? A futuristic western? A romance, a man vs. Machine type of book? It has all this and it's a bit scattered and goes off on tangents that we don't need to go on. About half way through I started fast forwarding. It gets really good as soon as they get to Shard Mountain but it takes much too long to go there and we have to go through scene after scene of townspeople taking about how great these Cryotes and how much they like to drink and party and... That's great and everything but the story stalls during these scenes. It doesn't add anything to the adventure. I think it would have been a better book if cut in half and if had been more focused.
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I don't want to be too harsh, because this is the author's first effort. It took me a while to finally commit to reading it -- I don't remember if it was free or just reduced or cheap, which always encourages me to try new things. And in that sense, I am glad I was able to share the journeys of the protagonists, and experience the voice of a new author.
That said, it could used tighter editing. Ideas or thoughts were often repeated to distraction. Jake liked treeky bars. He loved the taste of treeky bars. Mmm, treeky bars. I get it.
I also thought the Jake character was a dude bro caricature -- and his backstory doesn't mesh with what he thinks about later -- how he was in trouble for jaywalking. Charles, the most sympathetic character is a stereotypical virgin geek saving himself, in trouble for unpaid parking tickets. Honestly, I'd *love* to have heard more about the society in which people were sent to prison for such minor offenses, if Jake's second backstory is true. Then there's Parker, the typical testosterone bossy prison guard. They're in an accident, and when they wake up, they're more than 500 years in the future, preserved as a cryogenic / cyborg experiment forgotten when civilization collapsed. We never find out how it came to be that a prison bus accident came to be fodder for experiments, unless that was a cover to take people to experiment on.
The three characters also seem to blunder into a sort of idealized yet rough post-apocalyptic utopic town -- there are problems, for sure, but everyone is happy and working hard in their frontier gab. And the three cryotes, as they are called, assimilate more or less pretty easily. Apart from Charles' hypochondriac insistence on having them checked out medically because of headaches.Read more ›
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