In honor of the release of book III (cover reveal here), I’m posting my review of the first book in this intriguing sci-fi series (with a few points of clarification).
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This book is not what I expected, but wow. The back cover blurb, which I remembered only vaguely when I started reading the novel is accurate, but the sword on the cover threw my expectations: In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “this is a fantasy.” Truth be told, this book is unlike any I’ve ever read. Although hints of off-world happenings are mentioned (with futuristic technology suggesting sci-fi), the story takes place entirely on the planet Cypress Grove, in and around a settlement enclosed in a lethal jungle. The world building, particularly the descriptions of flora and fauna, proved to be one of my favorite aspects of the book: Far from being superfluous, those details proved to be integral. The author does an amazing job of setting up the “The Swamp’s” threat and even turns ordinary trips through New Cincinnati into suspenseful ventures.
I found the plot to be steady. Slow—not in the sense that I ever grew bored, but—in the overall feel. Though there were certainly moments of more intense action, what riveted me to the page was curiosity, emotion, and the steady DRIZZLE of suspenseful expectation. I loved that Joshua was proactive—resolute. I loved that his brilliant plans to fix things sometimes mired him in a worse situation. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him discover his new world, learning new tasks until he emerged a helpless boy no longer, but self-sufficient.
Though the close camera feel (deep POV) and the style (thoughts inserted without punctuation into narrative, strings of hyphens among ellipses, etc) were at times confusing (kindle edition, note below: *), the entirety was overall effective and unbelievably engrossing. At first, some of the syntax—even the emotional responses (like the out of body experiences)—was a touch confusing, but like any good story I was mostly able to slip right in.
The descriptions were vivid and sensory—not so gruesome as to bridge into horror, but a few rare visuals earned a cringe. (That being said, I don’t know if I could tolerate this story in film version. Alien is one thing… Arachnophobia quite another.) On a similar note, I have two mild cautions for any sensitive readers: (1) There are occasional scattered curse words (no f-bombs). If a novel indulges gratuitous swearing, I usually abandon it. That wasn’t necessary here. (2) Also, there was a stretch of suggestive dialogue which, though relatively brief, made me uncomfortable. It gave me the sense that…(view spoiler on Goodreads). However what I feared having to read about never transpired… So, in that sense, it turned out (for me) to be a non-issue.
Others have said (and I agree) the author’s knowledge of psychological issues has produced a compelling hero. The emotion is rich but not oppressive (for this reader, though hero Joshua might disagree). How could anyone “watch” an 11-year-old boy go through all that—in the end defeating the odds—and not reach the satisfying yet bittersweet finish line without a “RESOLUTE” cheer? I rooted for Joshua, felt for him, and now with great anticipation look forward to his next adventure.
And can I just say…?
I…want…to…learn…more…about…slow time! Why does Joshua have this ability? How will it come into play later in the series? This is yet one more fascinating detail from the author’s boundless creativity. Luke Skywalker has the force—er, uh—midichlori-whatevers; Paul Atreides has special Bene Gesserit abilities; and Joshua Vernon has slow time. Loved. It.
But… Mind your edition*: Regarding the punctuation and formatting, there’s a special note from the author at the beginning of the kindle version. If you’re picky about that kind of thing, be sure to read the note before you decide to purchase the e-version. Personally, I was able to work with it; the story was too engaging to deter me, but other readers might feel differently…in which case, get a physical copy.
I can’t say I’m naturally drawn to survival stories. It takes talent to keep interest high when the hero spends a fair amount of time on his own, but in my view, this author succeeded. So…even if it’s not your usual fare, consider giving this novel a try. I can’t wait for the next installment in the series!
About “The Deepest Cut”:
Already a social outcast because of his father’s alleged betrayal, young Joshua finds himself trapped outside the mining colony on the planet of Cypress Grove. He faces a murky rainforest infested with a creature so deadly, it has kept all humans confined inside their only settlement for decades. If he can manage to escape these alien wilds, he must then brave the even darker dangers of the colony’s underworld.
It is a tale of survival, a premature coming of age in an environment demanding resiliency, inventiveness, and self-reliance. But when teetering on the sharp edge of stark choices, decisions of life or death, can Joshua afford to consider questions of right and wrong, or does expediency rule the day?
About the Author
Debut author D G Lamb, a clinical neuropsychologist, uses his understanding of posttraumatic stress symptoms to inject psychological authenticity and complexity into Joshua’s personality, creating a wounded, but endearing central character.
What fans are saying…
“…a debut novel that brilliantly introduces a series with huge promise of entertainment.” – R Oserio (Readers Favorite)
“…one of the most original and well-told stories I’ve ever read.” – S Cahan
“Author D.G. Lamb navigates Joshua’s trauma with a sense of surrealism that’s both poignant and true to life.” – CL Farley (Readers Favorite)
“It is emotionally intense and it is hard not to feel for the protagonist …watching him grow through the challenges is delightful.” – R Oserio
“Lamb does an outstanding job of displaying Joshua’s evolving worldliness while still maintaining a childlike sense of innocence about the character.” – CL Farley
“First-time author D.G. Lamb has established himself as a new talent in young adult novels with this first effort…” – S Cahan
Author Website: https://www.driventothehilt.com/