Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wildside Review!

A while back it was my pleasure to participate in the 'crowdsource proofreading project' for Steven Gould's new ebook edition of Wildside. It was a good deal; I got to read an old favorite and test drive a couple of ebook formats and all I had to do was report any errors I found.

Well, here's my promised review of the book.


Young Charlie Newell discovers a doorway to an alternate version of earth where man never existed - the eponymous wildside. Flocks of Passenger pigeons still fill the skies, mammoth and bison still roam the plains, and dire wolves and saber tooth tigers still lurk in the tall grass.

If you found something like this, what would you do?

Make money of course!

Fresh out of High School, Charlie enlists four friends in his (environmentally concious) money making schemes.

Praise and Criticisms:

First of all, I've got to say that I really enjoy this book. I first read it twelve years ago when I was in high school. Re-reading it, although I have done so at least twice before, was a little bit like coming home again. I was also able to pick out more references to Monty Python as well as The Chronicles of Narnia this time around.

Normally I cringe when the label 'Young Adult' is thrown around, especially if it relates to a novel I still enjoy. However, I do admit that the clichéd flaws each character struggles with really lend this book an 'after school special'-esque feeling. There's the gay guy coming out to his friends, the alchoholic, and the guy with father issues who also has trouble getting a girlfriend.

The strangest thing about the 'wildside' of the gate is the ecology. You see, the alternate version of earth on the other side of the gate purportedly differs from the earth on our side of the gate in one key way: human's never existed there. Therefore, the pleistocene kill-off never hapened, and the climate is cooler because no one burned all of those evil fossil fuels.

Now I'm not go into a long debate about climate change, but I will point out that history tells us that earth's climate has never been static. Where I live it was a desert 6,000 years ago. How the Wooly Mammoth would have survived that, I don't know. Either way, I doubt that the adventurers in the novel would have encountered Woods Bison on the wildside. Not with sabre tooth tigers still prowling around. Bison antiquus was the ice age species and was better adapted to deal with dire wolves and saber tooth tigers. Why bison alone would have evolved into a more familiar species, I can't fathom.

But hey, it is, after all, an alternate earth. Who's to say how similar it has to be to our earth, just as long as it pushes your own political agenda…

And I suppose Charlie could have been mistaken in his identification.

My largest complaint, however, stems from something I had failed to fully appreciate before:

Spoiler alert!

Charlie fully expected to confront the government from the very begining! Sure, he didn't expect it to go to such an extreme, but to proceed with an action so likely to raise suspicion as to start selling Passenger Pigeons is kind of a dick move.

Or just plain dumb.

I mean, really? Charlie couldn't come up with a better plan to generate his start up cash?

I still like it, but it's not as good as Jumper.

Rating: ***/5

BTW, Columbicola extinctus and Campanulotes defectus are not extinct

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