Customer Reviews: Wildside
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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on May 24, 2000
This was another great book from an author with a rapidly expanding fan base. The story was excellent, the characters were well developed, and the main character, Charlie, was just as much a unique indivudual as Gould's hero from Jumper, without being a carbon copy of the character. The story itself is fast-moving and it's hard to put the book down once you've begun.

As the synopsis says, the hero, Charlie, discovers a portal in an old barn that leads into an alternate earth; an earth where humans never existed. Actually, it's not proven that there are no humans anywhere -- it doesn't matter to the story and the main character doesn't explore the entire world -- but it appears there aren't.

Charlie hatches a scheme to use this portal for fun and profit, but to do so he needs to enlist the help of some friends. So the group establishes a base on the far side of the portal - the wild side - and gets to work. Though it seems as if the story of setting up a base in a humanless environment would be dull, Gould is able to tell even this with a writing style that compells the reader to continue. The logistical element is used in large part for character development, as we see the dynamic of the group of friends and watch them progress in their lives even as the story progresses.

In his realistic if somewhat cynical fashion, the writer does not allow Charlie's actions to go unnoticed by the government, and they decide to get involved, which creates a building conflict between the heroes and the government which infuses the story with a sense of urgency and suspense.

In his previous book, Jumper, Gould used teleportation as a device to further the plot, never fully explaining the reasons behind it. It seems throughout most of Wildside that he is going to do the same thing with the portal. However, at the end of the book, the portal itself is explained, and the explanation is... unexpected.

I found the book to be enjoyable and fast-paced without being a vapid adventure tale. There is plenty to think about in the story, and it leaves you with the satisfying feeling you can only get from a good story told well.
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on October 17, 2005
Those who have read Heinlein's "juveniles" will recogonize the format immediately. Take a group of old-teen-young-adults, drop them into a very dangerous situation where they have absolutely no support system from the mainstream adult world, and let them solve their problems (technical and otherwise) through intelligence and bold action. Then reunite them with their parents so that both parents and kids recognize that the kids have "come of age" and are now successfully independent adults.

However, the book is not just an imitation. Nor is it an homage. It seems to me a reinterpretation of the same themes and concepts Heinlein used to write about, but updated for the turn of the century rather than the 1950s.

The book was well written and kept me reading it late into the night, but a couple parts of it seemed to be just a little too "angsty". Fortunately the author pulled back from that just in time to keep it from bogging down the story. The book is squarely targeted at teens, but is enjoyable for adults as well.
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on November 19, 2014
This book is really close to a 5-star for me. The first 60% of the book definitely was. As usual, I loved the world building and wasn't sure about how the author chose to wrap things up.

Charlie Newell inherits his uncle's farm after graduating high school, and discovers a portal to another version of Earth, one where it seems like humans have never evolved. He recruits his friends to explore the world and make themselves rich while learning more about it. At the same time, Charlie is very careful not to expose the world to outsiders, having a healthy fear of what the government would do if they discovered it.

It just so happens that Charlie is a pilot, and so after selling a few extinct pigeons to raise some cash (really!) he sets out to explore the new world via airplane. He sets up a base on the other side, the "wild side." I loved the meticulous planning that went into setting up bases and reaching his destination (gold-filled rivers of Colorado) through a series of steps.

But of course, something this good can't stay a secret forever, and once they are discovered, things get crazy quickly. Overall a really good book, with a great first half and solid wrap-up, even if it couldn't sustain greatness the whole way through
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on January 20, 2004
Charlie and his small group of friends have a secret. In the barn on a farm left to him by his missing and presumed dead uncle is a very special door, a door to another earth, the Wildside. An earth where man never evolved! So what would a group of teenagers do with such a secret? Why go for the gold naturally! After all no there are no men, therefore there's all the gold in them thar hills just waiting to be scooped up. The problem is they're in Texas and the gold is in California so what do you do? Simple, fly!
Wildside is a fun story, although not very believable (forget about the inter-dimensional travel how about two kids, 18 years old, getting certified as airplane mechanics is less that 4 weeks!) But does it have to be believable to a good, enjoyable read? I don't think so. Quell your stunned disbelief and let the story take you for a ride. It is a relatively unique plot with strong, well-developed characters. Explore with them a Texas without man and root for them against a government willing to do just about anything to get the secret of Wildside.
It's one that I have read more than once and have enjoyed it every time. For certain I RECOMMEND it for anyone looking for a relatively quick, uncomplicated but thoroughly enjoyable read.
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on March 1, 2015
Just finished this book, I couldn't put it down! I am a huge fan of the Jumper series, but had put off reading this book because it didn't sound particularly good in the description. But I decided to give it a try since I liked Gould's other work, and was not disappointed. It captured my attention from the beginning and kept me enthralled to the end. I kept forgetting that the characters were teenagers, barely out of high school, because of the "know-how" ability inherent in all of their tasks. Not sure when this was originally published/written, but obviously before the internet and cell phones were used. Even so, the noticeable absence of those things didn't detract from the story much. I'm hoping there will be sequels coming in the future.
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on August 23, 2014
This book was all right - probably exciting read for teenagers. It reminded me of a lot of books I read when I was younger, like "My Side of the Mountain" and "Sign of the Beaver" where young people do amazing things with hard work and know-how and self-reliance in a harsh and hostile natural environment. Overlaid on that was modern teenage angst with love triangles and clingy parents and disaffected parents and so forth, as well as big government conspiracy. Plot wise it was ok; decent action and suspense although much of it fell into the category of what they would call "mild peril" in the review of a PG-13 movie. I thought the teenage characters were a lot more competent than most 18-year-olds I've met, and thus a little bit hard to believe, but then nobody bothers to write a book about everyday teenagers that just sit around and text their friends and don't know how to fry an egg let alone build a barn or fly a plane. The "big reveal" at the end about the nature of the gate left me scratching my head - rather came out of nowhere.
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on January 24, 2014
I enjoy post-cataclysm and "alternate earth" stories, and this is a well-told one. The "kids" discover an version of Earth without people, where they attempt to mine minerals. Their methods of going from "nothing" to "something" are very realistic, much better than in many SF novels in which economics and logistics are assumed away.
The characters are well drawn, although the men are somewhat better filled in than the women. There is a low-key story of "coming of age with the opposite sex" handled realistically IMO. (Carnal issues are not explicit; no issues for having kids read it.) There is also a fair amount of "escaping from under the thumb of your parents." Both of these go far beyond what Heinlein did.
The last third takes a bit of a detour, with the adversary turning into a secret organization of the US Government. Reading it recently (post Snowden) is a bit more chilling than before.
I don't give 5 star reviews due to sock puppet problems. If I did, this one would still be a 4, not a 5.
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on September 23, 2015
Another fantastic read by Steven Gould. I've read his Jumper series, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This book had a different theme, but it kept my interest all the way through. I wish it had been twice the length though.
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on October 29, 2014
One of Gould's best. What would you do if you could step through a door and find an earth that had never had humans in it? What effect have humans had on plants, animals, and even weather? Where there are passenger pigeons, mammoths, saber tooth tigers, and dire wolves. This would make a wonderful movie.
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on June 21, 2014
Two stars because of a lack luster plot. 18 year old young adults acting like tweens embark on an adventure over shadowed by a sinister government intervention. Heavens to Murgatroid! what a novel concept!!!!. I was disappointed as this was not Jumper quality or even close. Quit after 50% so maybe it got better but at the rate it was deteriorating I put it down.
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