Thursday, October 25, 2012

Little Deadly Things by Harry Steinman

Little Deadly Things by Harry SteinmanOnce they were friends. Now two scientists race-one to save mankind, one to destroy it.

Nanotechnology made Eva Rozen the world's wealthiest woman. Rage made her the deadliest. Marta Cruz alone can stand between Eva and the death of millions. But will a crippling illness stop Marta first?

That's a great blurb. Unfortunately Steinman takes far too long to get to it. Except for the intriguing first chapter, he spends the first half of the book on back story. The plot is ignored in favor of character development, which might not have been bad had anything interesting happened. It isn't until two-thirds of the way through the book that we get a hint that the plot blurb is happening.

The three main characters (and their specialties) are Eva (chemistry and computers), Marta (biology), and Jim (good with dogs). After the first chapter, Steinman takes us back to their youth where we see how they handled childhood adversity. Steinman does a great job developing the characters, but I didn't really like them. I found Marta to be self-righteous, and her messiah complex made her insufferable. Jim started out as a likable character until anger management turns him into a goofy dolt. After a period of sullen petulance, he redeems himself by returning to a character the reader can root for. Eva's childhood is so horrific it borders on unbelievable. However, extraordinary characters are permitted to develop from extraordinary circumstances. While Eva is a well-crafted antagonist, her actions clearly show that she's a villain.

How these three remain friends strains credibility. Eva delights in antagonizing Marta, who is so stiff and idealistic that she can't see how the system works. If Eva really was Marta's friend, she'd explain her plans to Marta before the biologist's head exploded. Instead, she revels in making Marta's blood boil. But later, she acts surprised when Marta doesn't trust her and uses it to justify her terrible behavior. Steinman could explain how their friendship developed after their initial contact, but instead rushes through the crucial developing years. The transition from the introductory period to when Marta and Jim become a couple (a span of two years) all happens on one page! We don't get to see how this romance came about, nor do we get any indication that Eva's interest in Jim is anything more than a brief curiosity.

There is one time when Eva helps Jim stay out of jail and Marta to the hospital to deliver her baby. It could've been a pivotal moment in the trio's relationship, but instead it becomes the one shining moment that the characters cling to as proof of friendship. Honestly, that isn't enough in light of the negative interactions that Steinman shares with the reader.

Oh and that leads to the fourth character, Dana, who is the son of Marta and Jim. He factors into the second half of the book when Jim is no longer useful to the plot. Dana becomes another point of contention between Eva and Marta. "Aunt Eva" takes Dana under her wing and teaches him "ghosting" (hacking). An incident, which Steinman withholds from us, sends a crying teenaged Dana into the arms of his already jealous mother. Marta reacts by keeping Dana from Eva, and it's the final straw as far as she is concerned. The details of this pivotal incident that pushes Eva over the edge is deliberately left vague. We don't know what was said and none of these supposedly great friends tries to get this worked out, so all three of them look bad.

The good news is that Steinman did his homework. The nanotech applications are all solid science, though he is a little guilty of explaining how it all works and slowing down the story's pace. What worked really well was when he led us through the biochemical reactions that went on in a character when a dramatic moment, like death, struck. I would've preferred more story time spent on showing us the effects of nanotech on society instead of the melodrama.

From the acknowledgements, I learned that Steinman utilized an editor and proofreaders. However, I found about 40 typos. And I have to wonder why no one called his attention to some troubling storyline tangents. I don't want to spoil it so details are going to be left out. There's a scene at the climax where Jim is involved in a fight for his life. His mind wanders and he's having a flashback about the relationship he had with his parents after he got married. Sure, there's time for a thought or two but it goes on for several paragraphs; two pages of Kindle text! This isn't the time for lengthy reflection, not just from the character's standpoint but this is the climax of the story! It's a distraction to the reader!

In conclusion, Little Deadly Things is a well researched novel with well developed characters. Unfortunately I didn't like the characters all that much (you might) and their long friendship seemed unlikely. I spent too much of this review pointing out the flaws. There's a solid kernel of story here, I just feel it needs work. As this is Steinman's first novel, I believe he'll learn what works and what doesn't and come up with a stronger work the next time around.

Little Deadly Things is available on Amazon.



Thanks for the attention. I appreciate the reviewer's care, even though I didn't see eye-to-eye with him or her. (Nor did the 22 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, only two of which were from my wife or a friend.)

Gotta plead guilty to the typos! First editions are rough that way.

I'm glad that there's a site like Podler for indie book reviews. Best of luck to us both!

DED said...

In my defense, all I can say is that you can't please everyone. Many a reviewer enjoyed The Egyptian by Layton Green but I didn't.

Not everyone will make positive connections to an author's work. There will always be a fraction that won't like it. Pick one of your favorite authors and see how well their work stacks up on Amazon. He/She might have a 1,000 5-star reviews, but still managed 22 1-star reviews. You'll scratch your head about those 22, but shrug it off because you love that author.

So please accept your 20:1 positive ratio as a good thing and keep writing. :)