Monday, March 7, 2011

REVIEW: The Other Side of Life by Jess C. Scott


The Other Side of Life
(Cyberpunk Elven Trilogy #1)
Published 2011
234 pages
CreateSpace/Author
Source: The Teen {Book} Scene/Author

A thieving duo's world turns upside down when an Elven rogue uncovers the heinous dealings of a megacorporation. 

Anya and Leticia are partners-in-crime who steal for a living. Their world turns upside down after a chance encounter with fellow rogue: Nin, the enigmatic leader of an Elven band of thieves. A scuffle to prove who's "the better thief" transforms into more than Anya and Nin ever bargained for. While trying to retrieve the missing piece of an ancient artifact, the are caught up in the secret dealings of a megacorporation. What they uncover threatens to alter the very essence of not just human life, but the other side as well.  Elven intrigue, cyberpunk action, and a deadly dose of danger come together in The Other Side of Life (taken from Amazon).

REVIEW: So, who here is a perfect snob about not reviewing self-published authors?  (**blushes**waves hand**).  Yeah, that's me.  And guess what?  Jess C. Scott's The Other Side of Life schooled me right into the bad kids' corner.

Scott isn't just a decent writer; she's good, as in G-O-O-D.  This Other Side of Life isn't just interesting; it's enterprising.  You'd think so many different elements - sci-fi, classic fantasy, romance and something of a hero quest (with a twist) - could become jumbled and be too much at once.  There's even a hint of a dystopian setting here.  Somehow, Scott makes all the distinctions flow together.  I didn't have to try to make the mixing work together - the writing makes it seem perfectly natural and the story flows.  That's saying a lot when reading about a tall, hot elf walking around in 2035 with a Bond-worthy, high-tech doofatchee on his wrist:

Nin looked up and around the abandoned stone church, in quiet solace and admiration.

There was something distinctly unique about the building - it felt safe.

He waved a hand in front of the hidden camera situated in a crack in the stone wall, watching the small screen on his N-Gage wrist device.  The screen showed the scene at the church - empty - with no sign of him, or his moving hand.  Debug: successful, he noted.

An old battered wooden cross hung on the wall, and there were a few pews strewn about the interior.  The air was cold.  The silence, overpowering.

-The Other Side of Life, page 1

Scott has a great way of weaving unfamiliar elements through familiar settings, and I think is one of the reasons why everything works well together.  I think for fans of urban fantasy, this particularly works well.

Then there are the characters themselves.  I've introduced you to Nin: he's the leader of his crew which consists of his cousin and good friend.  However, as he is a self-renounced elven prince, you might think that's a demotion.  You'd be wrong.  It's a deliberate choice of his to eschew a privileged lifestyle an opt for a much less boring one filled with authenticity and purpose.  Together, the elves are working on retrieving an important elven artifact which they hope will solve a major problem that both elf-kind and humankind face (although humans don't know it).  To help them, they develop their own technology that helps them find this artifact and to keep their presence in the human world as secret as possible.  Hence, the 'cyperpunk' descriptive - they've turned their back on traditional elven wisdom and live in harmony with nature and technology, but not slave to it, as humans seem to be.

Enter Anya and Leticia., the thieving (human) duo.  A chance encounter introduces the duo to the elven trio (during a robbery, no less).  Anya and Leticia are both 18 year-old college students, but don't come from backgrounds that can afford the expense of education.  Hence, they are thieves for hire (can I tell you how much I love that girls are the sneaky 'bad' guys here?  Love it when the ladies tease the law on their own intitiative. . .  teehee).  Despite initial misgivings, the elves hire them to help retrieve the artifact.  The elves are stunned at their decision.  Traditional elven wisdom states that humans are dangerous and to be avoided.  A lovely attraction develops between Nin and Anya. .  . the romance mostly feels natural at times and is a sweet and understated part of the book, but occasionally borders on corny.  However, Nin and Anya seem to know this themselves and do some self-chastising when it happens.

Those are the bare bones of the story, but I have t tell you, this isn't merely an exciting let's-find-it sci-fi/fantasy adventure (although it's that, too).  This is a thoughtful, well-done narrative that incorporates discussion on social distinctions and consequences, environmental irresponsibility, and discussion on how we as a society live our lives.  Just when you fear the narrative is going to shift from relevant commentary into pulpit rant, it pulls back and refocuses on the excitement and romance.  That's something I really want to praise Scott for: no one element of the story ever overwhelms the other - there was a very nice balance that made everything flow in and out of each part.

Is this book perfect?  Nope.  There are a few issues here and there.  I did notice that Scott is comma happy, and they aren't always needed.  There are also some redundant adjectives and descriptions - these are little, nitpicky things that I noted here and there (former journalist - my inner editor comes sneaking out).  Nin is in danger of getting too gushy with his elven love poetry at times, but then it's funny because he mocks himself for it.  However, it is a testament to how interesting I found the story that these things did not truly bother me.  I adored the first half the book and enjoyed the second half.  I occasionally would get confused during the 'covert ops' scenes, and by that I mean I wasn't always sure if I was picturing what was going on correctly.  That being said, I stand in admiration of Scott - she has accomplished a great story as a one-man band.  When you think that an author with a major house has both an agent and editor, as well as a marketing and design team for guidance, I think it says a lot for Scott that she's put together a solid story with good characters and interesting plot by herself and on her own terms.  I adored the ending. You might be crushed, but I appreciate that Scott stuck by the sad consequences of a selfless choice instead of conjuring up a last minute miracle. Nope, not telling you what happened, but it definitely has me looking forward to book two.

I found the title intriguing, and I really loved how well it tied into so many different aspects of the story.  The Other Side of Life relates to everything from having a worldview different from the one you are raised with, to knowing what it's like walking in someone else's shoes, to knowing what literally happens when our consciousness passes from this existence to another.  This book is an entertaining, enlightening and engaging read.  In particular, if you liked The Unidentified by Rae Mariz, Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder and are anticipating Memento Nora by Angie Smibert, I think you'll enjoy this one, too.  I know I did.

In your wanderings and dealings, neglect not - the Other Side of Life.
-2nd Poem, pg. 41, The Other Side of Life

This book is available in paperback and also on ebook.

The Other Side of Life Blog Tour from {Teen} Book Scene

Monday, February 21st – Nova at Novapsych (In Her Own Words)


Wednesday, February 23rd – Sherry at Flipping Pages for All Ages (Into The Past)

Thursday, February 24th – Bri at Bri Meets Books (Tens List)

Friday, February 25th – Bianca at Nyxen’s Adventure (Playlist)

Saturday, February 26th – JL at An Avid Reader’s Musings (Review)

Sunday, February 27th – Danielle at There’s A Book (Review)

Monday, February 28th – Danielle at There’s A Book (Guest Post)

Thursday, March 3rd – Sherry at Flipping Pages for All Ages (Review)

Friday, March 4th - Linds at Bibliophile Brouhaha (Author Interview)

Saturday, March 5th – Nova at Novapsych (Review)

Sunday, March 6th - JL at An Avid Reader’s Musings (Guest Post)

FTC: I received this ebook from a Book Blog Tour organizer (Teen Book Scene) to read and give my honest opinion. In no way was I compensated for my review. 

7 comments:

  1. Great review! This sounds so interesting and so different from everything else. I love that is a mix of genres. Definitely adding this to my list. I am curious about those elven love poems :)

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  2. I already added this to my to read list!

    My sister would also say I have a problem with commas. I've been working on it since grammar is not my strong suit.

    Great review!

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  3. Brilliant review Linds, you write ridiculously well! Love that this one is all about balance, that's my new favorite thing to look for when reading. I love when everything just seems to come together effortlessly. This story also seems to have amazing characters - huge bonus! Definitely going to have to give this one a try:)

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  4. @Nic - I am curious to see what you'll think - I really enjoyed it!

    @Jacinda - Argh, well, I just reread my own review and found some typos I missed myself ***red face***, so don't feel too bad, haha! I'm a great editor for others, but find it difficult to catch everything I screw up myself!

    @Jenny - thanks!! That's a great to hear from you, considering how awesome your own reviews are! The characters are cool - definitely hope people give this one a shot!

    -Linds

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  5. Wow, this is a lot of genres mixed into one, and awesome that the author managed to keep in clean and understandable. I usually don't read too many self-pubbed authors but you have me convinced to give this one a shot!

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  6. You had me at tall, hot elf (thank you Orlando)!

    And I'm a comma happy girl, so I could definitely over look, that. hehehehehe

    I just usually have so much fun with character that mock themselves.

    Even though I wasn't a fan of The Unidentified and I'm still unsure about this cyber punk genre, you've got me so curious about the ending. Thanks Linds.

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  7. I don't mind self published novels as long as the writing is balanced and holds my attention, which this one seems to do quite well. There are definitely some really talented self published writers out there and I'm more than happy to help spread the word about their books.

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Linda. I think I might give it a try (once my huge stack of tbr reads is done).

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