Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Planck Factor by @debbimack #TechnoThriller

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack

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My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely decided to review.

This thriller (technothriller according to Amazon) tells a complex story, or rather, tells several not so complex stories in a format that can make readers’ minds spin. A thriller about a student who decides, on a dare, to write a genre book (a thriller) and whose life becomes itself another thriller, one that seems to mix spies, conspiracies, terrorism, the possibility of the end of the world, and it all relates to quantum physics. (Or, as she describes it in the book: “…a suspense story with a hint of science fiction and a touch of espionage at its heart.”) The parallelisms between the story of Jessica Evans (the protagonist) and that of her fictional character, Alexis, become more convoluted and puzzling as the book progresses and the astounding coincidences will ring some alarm bells until we get to the end and… It is a bit difficult to talk about the book in depth without giving away any spoilers, but I’ll try my hardest.

This book will be particularly interesting for writers, not only because of its storytelling technique (talk about metafiction) but also because of the way the main protagonist (a concept difficult to define but Jessica is the one who occupies the most pages in the book and her story is told in the first person) keeps talking (and typing) about books and writing. No matter how difficult and tough things get, she has to keep writing, as it helps her think and it also seems to have a therapeutic effect on her. It is full of insider jokes and comments familiar to all of us who write and read about writing, as it mentions and pokes fun at rules (“Show, don’t tell. Weave in backstory. Truisms, guides, rules, pointers—call them what you will… And adverbs. Never use an adverb.”) and also follows and at the same time subverts genre rules (we have a reluctant heroine, well, two, varied MacGuffins and red herrings, mysteries, secrets, traitors and unexpected villains… and, oh yes, that final twist).

Each one of the chapters starts with the name of the person whose point of view that chapter is told about —apart from Alexis’s story, told in the third person, written in different typography, and usually clearly introduced, there are chapters from the point of view of two men who follow Jessica, so we know more than her, another rule to maintain suspense, and also from the point of view of somebody called Kevin, who sounds pretty suspicious— and apart from Jessica’s, all the rest are in the third person, so although the structure is somewhat complex and the stories have similarities and a certain degree of crossover, there is signposting, although one needs to pay attention. Overall, the book’s structure brought to my mind Heart of Darkness (where several frames envelop the main story) or the Cabinet of Dr Caligary (although it is less dark than either of those).

As you read the story, you’ll probably wonder about things that might not fit in, plot holes, or events that will make you wonder (the usual trope of the amateur who finds information much easier than several highly specialised government agencies is taken to its extremes, and some of the characteristics of the writing can be amusing or annoying at times, although, whose story are we reading?) but the ending will make you reconsider the whole thing. (I noticed how the characters never walked, they: “slid out”, “shimmied out”, “pounded”, “bounded down the steps”, “clamored down”…) As for the final twist, I suspected it, but I had read several reviews by other members of the team and kept a watchful eye on the proceedings. I don’t think it will be evident to anybody reading the story totally afresh.

The novel is too short for us to get more than a passing understanding and connection with the main character, especially as a big part of it is devoted to her fictional novel, (although the first person helps) and there are so many twists, secrets and agents and double-agents that we do not truly know any of the secondary characters well enough to care. Action takes precedence over psychological depth and although we might wonder about alliances, betrayals and truths and lies, there are no complex motivations or traumas at play.

Due to the nature of the mystery, the novel will also be of interest to those who enjoy stories with a scientific background, particularly Physics (although I don’t know enough about quantum physics to comment on its accuracy). A detailed knowledge of the subject is not necessary to follow the book but I suspect it will be particularly amusing to those who have a better understanding of the theory behind it. (The author does not claim expertise and thanks those who helped her with the research in her acknowledgements). The book also touches on serious subjects, including moral and ethical issues behind scientific research and the responsibility of individuals versus that of the state regarding public safety. But do not let that put you off. The book is a short, fast and action-driven story that requires a good attention span and will be particularly enjoyed by writers and readers who enjoy complex, puzzle-like mysteries, or more accurately, those who like stories that are like Russian dolls or Chinese boxes.

I enjoyed this book that is clever and knowing, and I’d recommend in particular to readers who are also writers or enjoy books about writers, to those who like conspiracies, spies and mysteries, especially those with a backstory of science and physics, and to people who prefer plot-driven books and who love Hitchcock, Highsmith and Murder She Wrote.

Book Description

On a dare, grad student Jessica Evans writes a thriller, creating a nightmare scenario based upon the theory that the speed of light is not a constant—one that has a dark application. Her protagonist (the fiancé of a scientist killed in a car crash) is pursued by those who want to use the theory to create the world’s most powerful weapon.
Jessica’s research into the science stirs up concern from an extremist group intending to use it for evil. Before long, Jessica’s life mimics that of her protagonist, as she runs from terrorist conspirators who suspect she may try to stop them from causing a major disaster. As the clock ticks down, Jessica must put the pieces together and avert a global catastrophe.

About the author

Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series. She’s also published one young novel. In addition, she’s a Derringer-nominated short story writer, whose work has been published in various anthologies.

Debbi is also a screenwriter and aspiring indie filmmaker. Her first screenplay, The Enemy Within, made the Second Round in the 2014 Austin Film Festival screenplay contest and semifinals in the 2016 Scriptapalooza contest.

A former attorney, Debbi has also worked as a journalist, librarian, and freelance writer/researcher. She enjoys walking, cats, travel, movies and espresso.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Barb reviews The Planck Factor by @debbimack #Thriller

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack

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During Magic 101, my one (required) semester of college physics, the professor assured our class of history and lit majors that there was no such thing as calculus in the real world.

For the most part, that works for me. But every now and then something reminds me that I’m only seeing part of the universe.

Most recently, it was reading The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack, which asks a basic question: what if Einstein got that whole e=mc2 thing wrong? What if the velocity of light was NOT a constant, and thus nuclear devices could be n-times more powerful?

Setting aside the dubious science here, the obvious answer (for a writer anyway) is that government agencies, spies, supervillains, terrorists, and—scariest of all—competing academics would kill for those results. In The Planck Factor, that’s the premise that young grad student Jessica Evans uses as the basis for her first novel. As the book alternates between Jessica’s story and that of her protagonist Alexis, Jessica starts to see terrifying similarities between her own situation and that of her fictional creation. Both are in danger from unknown forces, forced to flee for their lives, while family and friends are also in mortal peril.

At the heart of both stories is the random scientific “fact” that Jessica extrapolated from a chance footnote. In her novel, that is enough to put Alexis into danger. In Jessica’s real world, research for the novel has cost her friend’s life and sent his killers after her.

There were so many things I liked about this little novella-length book. The converging chapters of Jessica’s life and the developing story of her novel were nicely done. The deliberate similarities between her character and that of her creation might have been confusing, but they were cleverly set apart by the use of different fonts and chapter headings. Then there were the sections from the mysterious Kevin, whose role isn’t revealed until the last pages. And there was a final twist in the very last page that I never saw coming.

Having said that, I have to admit there were things that bothered me as I was reading. The science itself was threadbare and unsubstantiated—but I could live with that. The thinly-veiled but constant discussion of the writing process was annoying in its determination to state (and restate) the obvious. But, given the fact that Jessica is a graduate student writing a thesis on “how genre fiction could have literary value”, I suppose I could also live with that. Even the obvious plot holes such as the observed similarities between ‘fictional’ Alexis and ‘real’ Jessica which seem so significant but are ultimately never explained by anything other than coincidence might just be a literary device. Smaller plot sink holes in the fictional book (such as the part where Alexis is supposed to put herself in grave danger in order to find out where some notes are hidden—while the person who hid them was actually standing right next to her) could be explained by the fictional novel being a work in progress.

But there were two things that troubled me. The first was the gigantic and (as far as I could tell) completely unsubstantiated leap where government agencies go from worries about what might be in Jessica’s book to closing down the Golden Gate Bridge and preparing for ‘the biggest catastrophe in modern history’—without a single fact or substantiated clue to back it up. There were further logic-less leaps that left me scratching my head (but I don’t want to mention them for fear of spoilers).

The second thing that annoyed me was that I just didn’t like Jessica. She came across as self-centered and somewhat whiny. When she gets a phone warning and starts to worry that someone is stalking her, she doesn’t hesitate to go straight to the police. Twice. But when a friend who was trying to impress her by helping with her research is killed, she “doesn’t want to get involved”.

By now, I was down several stars in my appreciation of the novel. And then I came to that last page with its stunning final twist. Wait a minute… Does that mean what I think it means? I read it several times. Then I went back and re-read several sections of the book. And I realized that the entire story within a story had been turned inside out. Back went the stars.

Overall, I’d say The Planck Factor might not be a perfect book, but it does have a perfect final twist.

Book Description

On a dare, grad student Jessica Evans writes a thriller, creating a nightmare scenario based upon the theory that the speed of light is not a constant—one that has a dark application. Her protagonist (the fiancé of a scientist killed in a car crash) is pursued by those who want to use the theory to create the world’s most powerful weapon.
Jessica’s research into the science stirs up concern from an extremist group intending to use it for evil. Before long, Jessica’s life mimics that of her protagonist, as she runs from terrorist conspirators who suspect she may try to stop them from causing a major disaster. As the clock ticks down, Jessica must put the pieces together and avert a global catastrophe.

About the author

Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series. She’s also published a young adult novel called INVISIBLE ME and a thriller entitled THE PLANCK FACTOR.
Debbi’s a Derringer-nominated short story writer, whose work has been published in various anthologies. She also writes screenplays and is interested in filmmaking.
Debbi enjoys reading, movies, travel, baseball, walking and espresso–not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Columbia, MD, with their family of cats.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack #Thriller @debbimack

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Planck Factor by Debbi Mack

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THE PLANCK FACTOR by Debbi Mack

3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a short book, a long novella.  It’s an unusual plot ~ student Jessica starts to write a thriller, then discovers that life is imitating art as she is swept into a cat and mouse chase involving mysterious men in vans, research into the possibility of making a bomb more powerful than a nuclear attack, truth seeker groups and murder.

I like Ms Mack’s writing style very much; it’s sharp, current and witty, and she has clearly drawn on her own experience to write Jessica, which was entertaining and amusing.  The book alternates between Jessica’s own story and that of the novel she is writing, which was only occasionally confusing; mostly, it works, and is nicely interspersed with short chapters from ‘observers’.  I was interested in the subject matter, and it has a good end twist which I hadn’t anticipated.

For me, the downside to this story was the lighthearted tone in which it’s written, almost a comedy thriller.  Despite being the subject of a nationwide search and having witnessed murders, chasing across the country in an effort to hide, and wondering what the hell is going on, Jessica still makes quips and manages to work on her novel.  This does make more sense when you read the twist at the end, but the problem was the rest of the story; I think it would have seemed more feasible if her work had resulted in her getting drawn into the danger, rather than having her novel ‘come to life’.  Also, if it had been a bit more serious, and possibly longer.  It’s a great idea, I just thought it needed a bit more research and thinking out.

One thing that made me choose this book was the ‘New York Times best selling author’ line on the cover.  This refers not to this book but to a 2011 mystery, Identity Crisis, which made numbers 27 and 35 on the NYT ebook best seller list for two weeks during that year, in case you’re interested.

Book Description

On a dare, grad student Jessica Evans writes a thriller, creating a nightmare scenario based upon the theory that the speed of light is not a constant—one that has a dark application. Her protagonist (the fiancé of a scientist killed in a car crash) is pursued by those who want to use the theory to create the world’s most powerful weapon.
Jessica’s research into the science stirs up concern from an extremist group intending to use it for evil. Before long, Jessica’s life mimics that of her protagonist, as she runs from terrorist conspirators who suspect she may try to stop them from causing a major disaster. As the clock ticks down, Jessica must put the pieces together and avert a global catastrophe.

About the author

Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series. She’s also published a young adult novel called INVISIBLE ME and a thriller entitled THE PLANCK FACTOR.
Debbi’s a Derringer-nominated short story writer, whose work has been published in various anthologies. She also writes screenplays and is interested in filmmaking.
Debbi enjoys reading, movies, travel, baseball, walking and espresso–not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Columbia, MD, with their family of cats.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter