Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Scarab - Scott Rhine

Title: The Scarab
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

I am going to start this post with a confession, when I was first asked to review "The Scarab" by Scott Rhine I wasn't sure about it. Basically, I found the short synopsis I was provided with a little bit confused, and it actually put me off the book. Maybe I am just being overly harsh but I have referenced the passage below;

"Hemophiliac and ace mechanic Ethan Hayes had risen to the top of the computer gaming circuit as the Scarab. When he invented a new device that made him rich over night, he and Mary Ann were able to enter SimCon, the simulated European road race, like Cinderella at the ball. After he stumbles across a cyber-criminal ring, they kidnap Mary Ann to silence him. Now, it's up to the Scarab to save her."

The first thoughts that went through my head were as follows;
1. Haemophilia must have an important part to play in the book somewhere as it seems rather randomly included in the synopsis.
2. Who the heck is this Mary Ann person who is also going to SimCon with Ethan as she just seems to be mentioned with no explanation?
3. The synopsis just seems very bitty, like someone cut up a longer blurb and patched it together.

Anyway, I decided to follow the link to Smashwords and read the extended synopsis which I once again reference below;

"There are very few problems that can't be solved with a little help from your friends and the proper application of high explosives. Hemophiliac and ace mechanic Ethan Hayes had risen to the top of the computer gaming circuit as the Scarab. When he invented a device that made him rich over night, he and ex-girlfriend, Mary Ann, were able to enter SimCon, the simulated European road race.

When Ground Effect Vehicles became common, prototypes were too dangerous and expensive to build outright. Instead, each year, major designers competed in the Super Bowl of virtual races – SimCon. The vehicles needed speed, skill, and weapons to get ahead. The winners in each class got millions in production contracts and advertizing.

Ethan made a lot of enemies in his first professional race, including a cyber-criminal named Kali. The challenges of a week-long trek across Europe are nothing compared to the dirty tricks, murder, and kidnapping that tok place off the track. Being a severe hemophiliac meant Ethan had to keep his temper under control, and think. When someone kidnapped Mary Ann, it was up to the Scarab to save her."

After reading this I was now actually interested in the book, it was obvious that the shorter synopsis was, in my opinion a badly edited version up of this one.  This extended synopsis actually made  sense to me, seemed well thought out and was better written. So I popped the ebook onto my kindle and read a book that at it's heart was an enjoyable car chase romp that reminded of a mix of so many "classic" and not so "classic" car race movies; Deathrace 2000, The Great Race, Speed Racer, etc.

I think you can gather the basic premise of the novel from my earlier discussion on the synopsis, so I won't go over that again and I will get straight into my opinions on the book itself. I have to admit that I almost felt a little lost at the beginning, we quickly get thrown into the world of "Ground Effect Vehicles" with all it's associated technology and science. I had to keep my concentration levels up high to ensure that I could follow it all. I suspect some people could find it quite a heavy introduction into what soon becomes a fun adventure, where I am happy to say the amount of techno-speak reduces. I suppose that in order to understand most of the novel we need to understand some basic science/technology and Scott Rhine just got it out the way right at the beginning.

Outside the initial technological introduction, we get a basic set-up and premise behind why Ethan is going to enter the SimCon event. I have to admit I would this all a little bit too easy, especially in regards to a superhero of a lawer who assisted Ethan beyond belief. Once past this section though, I ended up getting to the meat of the story which had me hooked very quickly. The simulated race that he takes part in is superb fun, with ambushes, amazing maneuvers, clever alliances and many other exciting events. Quite simply, I loved this simulated race across Europe, and wish such an event really existed so that I could watch it.

In regards to the non race portions, it is during these sections that we get to meet various other supporting characters and a whole new sub-plot beyond the race itself is revealed. Again, like with the initial set-up, I felt that some of the various problems are solved a little bit too easily. However, these non-race sections were still fun and kept to the overall feeling of adventure within the novel. Although, I have to admit that I did at times want to just skip these portions of the book as I wanted to see where the race went next, but in the end these sections did add to the overall excitement of the race itself.

The final thing I am going to mention here is another little grumble, again nothing to do with the story itself, but with the presentation. Like when I read the initial synopsis, I was also rather bemused by the book's cover. At first, I thought something was wrong and this was some sort of Maths text book, but after double checking I confirmed that this really was the cover. Even now, I am still not sure what the cover is trying to portray, but I am glad to say that from what I have read on the author's blog, the cover is going to be changed. I hope that this change will at least help sell more copies of the novel.

Overall, this was a fun and light hearted read, the SimCon race elements in particular were entertaining and I was always looking forward to the next race stage to come up. The few issues I had with the non-race elements of the novel being "solved" a little bit too easily were minor and the cover/synopsis issues are more a problem for the author in selling the book than for someone reading it. I would therefore recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, near future adventure along the lines of the movies; Deathrace 2000 or Speed Racer.