July 12, 2012

Review: Heaven 2.0, by Scott Haworth

Author: Scott Haworth
Title:  Heaven 2.0
Publisher: Haworth
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes

Buy your copy: Kindle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having been born in the 28th century, Mike Kepler never believed in the existence of Heaven or Hell. The myths of the old faiths had been abandoned and replaced with the teachings of The Church many centuries earlier. The young physicist is shocked to learn that there is an afterlife when he is recruited by the Taipei Corporation. It was created by a team of scientists rather than God.

Mike’s job is to travel to the past and save people at the time of their deaths using advanced medical technology. The individuals are then brought back to the 28th century, judged on the sins they committed and sentenced to an eternity in the artificial Heaven or Hell. Mike quickly learns that the project is far less noble than it appears. He discovers that many of the people sentenced to eternal torment in Hell do not deserve their fate...”
GoodReads’ blurb

This is one of those books that are hard to review. It falls mostly outside of my usual genre choices, but when I got the review request, I just couldn’t resist the concept. I’m glad I read it, and yet there are things that keep me from gushing about it.

Plot and characters are fairly straightforward, for example. It’s not simplistic, just simple. The story cuts to the chase and leaves out anything that doesn’t propel the plot, which means character development scenes are nonexistent, meaningful relationships are scarce, and the action itself sometimes reads too convenient. I can deal with the character issues, because this kind of story is more about mankind than about any particular person and the author got me invested successfully in the general plight—namely, destroying that crappy 28th century society and doing so by yesterday if at all possible. I truly disliked them with this uneasy feeling in your gut that you reserve for really abhorrent people. In that respect, kudos to Heaven 2.0... because not only it was dreadful, it was also entirely possible.

The plot part was a bit harder to swallow. I think a good comparison for this book, in the movie world, would be the Isle (you know, with Ewan McGregor?). It’s that kind of desperate fight against impossible odds, of individuals against the system, of claustrophobia... except that everything was so matter-of-fact, so quick, so straight, that there was no tension. Even when the real action takes place, I had no expectations about the results because it was too farfetched to work. And later, things just fell into place: after all, if you don’t know anything about a huge compound called Hell and you just venture in, how likely are you to actually find the two people you’re looking for in the first try?

Another aspect that nagged me a little was the science side of things. The level of tech here is mind-numbing; it needs to be in order for Heaven to exist. In general, breezing through all that as if it was normal, as if it was magic, shouldn’t be a problem, but some sci-fi fans like to have an attempt at explanation behind all the evolution. I liked some details, like pen and paper no longer existing, handwriting being considered a Dark Ages activity, or people crammed up in Mars. Even space-time travel, I could handle. The refrigerators, which are actually matter generators and voice-operated, confused me a bit more, which I understand is ridiculous after you’ve gone an accepted the engineering of Heaven.

Perhaps I had trouble transitioning to the future because I had only a very sketchy idea about how we got there. Or perhaps I would just have been happy if you’d thrown in some buttons with the frigs... In any case, a warning here because there’s a lot of progress to take in.

Should you read Heaven 2.0? Well, I certainly enjoyed the read. I liked the concept, and I always like to read about human nature. That said, though, I think this novel could have used a few more pages (that’s weird... usually I complain about the opposite!) in order to allow for more detailed characters to make the reader’s investment more personal and in order to muddy up the convenient line of events to create more tension. It’s really short as it is, though, so if you have a chance to check it out you should probably see how you feel about it.

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