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Spencer Murdoch and the Portals of Erzandor (Volume 1) Paperback – April 4, 2015
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About the Author
James M M Baldwin writes speculative fiction with an interaction between spirituality, science, and humanity. His science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing interjects spiritual self-awareness and its influence on the natural environment and the universe. Adding to the relationship between human nature and enlightenment, the occasional rocket ship and alien creature color his imaginary worlds. James is an author, artist, poet, musician, and an avid bicyclist. He is an active participant in the Nebraska Writers Workshop and lives in Omaha with his wife and children, their dogs Flash and Waldo, cats Wink and Ash, and ferrets Merlin and Magic.
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Looking at the title of this novel, gives me the impression its construction needs to be a combination of it being character and plot driven. The reader needs to know what makes Spencer Murdoch tick seeing he is he centre of the adventure and there needs to be enough background to the plot or world building to make this adventure worthwhile for Spencer to be involved in. Baldwin seems to be successful here as he has depicted Spencer as an ordinary guy, family man, Christian, construction worker, definitely not a hero or adventurer extraordinaire. I liked this character construction as it makes it relatable for the reader, and you find yourself thinking what would I do if I was involved in something like this? Right from the start when Spencer discovers something suspicious in his street, Baldwin has you drawn to him and uses this to introduce you to the mysterious Dr Ubel, his henchmen (who provide some comedy relief in their bumbling and banter) and the supernatural mystery that thru sts Spencer, his family and his friend Jack, into an adventure that puts the future of the world into Spencer, Jack and CJ's hands.
It is this that showcases Baldwin's imagination and is very well reflected in the world building that bases the science fiction and fantasy elements of the plot. I loved the riddle that Spencer had to solve in order to fulfill the prophecy. The underground world and the journey to this world that Spencer and Jack make is very enjoyable and suspenseful reading and very much adds to the plot development. It is this that gives the impression that there is enough going on in this plot to keep you coming back for more. And you do!
I have only one gripe and that is the missing spiritual aspects. This is very much an edgy, speculative fiction novel with Christian themes, a guardian entity to a portal to Heaven, a Christian thrust into the middle of this quest for world dominion by the antagonist trying to thwart the prophecy from God coming to fruition. During this, Baldwin has Spencer showing very little prayer or reliance on God. It is exactly these events that in a novel of this genre that an author has a great opportunity to show a Christian character being submitted and obedient, relying on God to provide guidance and direction as not only is this extraordinary circumstances that he finds himself in, but this should be normal practice in any Christian life. The way Baldwin has portrayed it could be interpreted that prayer and asking for God's involvement is only when extraordinary circumstances occur or when you are at the end of yourself. This is just not so from a biblical point of view. I don't mean this to sound harsh just what struck me as I read.
I also feel that a plot line involving Ubel's son is left unresolved and if this is to be addressed in the next book, there is no indication of this in this volume. This plot line is not a minor issue, Baldwin's plot line on this issue implies that it is a major motive that keeps him trying to thwart Spencer from fulfilling the prophecy. That is disappointing and adds an element of plot derailment.
Despite these two negatives, this is a good novel and sets the stage for an engaging series.
I look forward to the next instalment being released on September 2, 2016.
Recommended (3.6/5 Stars).
World Building 4/5
Spiritual Level 3/5
Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5
Average Rating 3.6/5
A creepily efficient scientist, Dr. Ubel, seems too interested in Spencer’s off-duty activities, while directing his Teutonic henchmen in white vans about the countryside, searching for something. Why are all those FBI agents snooping around? When Spencer and a buddy rappel down into a subterranean world underneath his bushes, things really go south in a hurry. Erzandor is waiting!
Main character Spencer is a likeable antihero, just an average guy, facing challenges that mount in intensity, until the stakes aren’t just his family, but the entire world. Good and evil battle in these pages. Only Spencer’s ingenuity—and a little luck—can save the day, at least until the next battle royal in volume two of this series. It should be out soon.
If you like your sci fi intelligent and stirred with the supernatural and natural alike, you’ll savor these Spencer Murdoch novels.