Score: 89/100 (8.9 out of 10)
We mean the following statement in the most flattering way possible: “Water Witch” by Kelly Brewer is a BEAUTIFUL DISASTER! It is adorably abominable. It is phenomenal and flawed. When you figure out the secret to “reading” it (which we'll reveal later), you realize that this book isn't just surprisingly good, it's borderline an instant-classic! There is so much going for this book when you look past the challenging stylistic choices that seem to make it harder to access what is essentially a very fun story with some awesome characters.
There are so many parts of this that reminded us of Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. It's not just another story about space marines battling an evil alien menace. Ok, it kinda is. But it's these characters, the action, and the visceral descriptions of sex, gore, and violence that makes this book stand out from other indie books on the subject. This book is messy, often deliberately, creating a feeling of being caught up in the chaos of the action and drama. There are literal space storms occurring in this book, and you feel like you're constantly caught in the middle of one.
This book is filled to the brim with space action, space drama, space storms, space sex, space warfare, space exploration, space fighting, space travel, and more space sex. And did we mention more space sex? And it seems to be very good space sex. The author is very, very, very good at describing the things that matter. Jokes aside, Uranus is actually one of the locations discussed in the story, which apparently centers on our solar system. That created a little bit of a problem in our minds as we started to question why a civilization with such great technology and potential would waste the energy and time necessary to inhabit the gas giants. Aren't they mostly gas with tremendous gravity and “climates” that make them completely uninhabitable? Maybe these planets weren't terraformed. Maybe there were just Dyson spheres or colonies built on or around them or their moons. Maybe we missed that explanation in this maze of a novel—but it did kinda make us wonder and break our suspension of disbelief.
There's also one description in this book that was so hilarious and entertaining that we just need to share. It's when a character named Chamar eats and then achieves a “fully expanded gaseous form.” Not only is this a hilarious description but it's also a very good description since we can imagine how big and bloated Chamar must look and feel.
Now to some real talk. When we flipped through this book the first time, we were initially horrified. It is a dyslexic person's nightmare. It looks like an LSD trip put to paper, or like one of those paintings that looks like someone just randomly threw paint at the canvas but that actually holds some deeper meaning to the artist. This is that painting in book form.
Well, apparently, this book does seem to have something deeper hiding beneath the surface like a $100 bill behind a watermark. It became so difficult to sift through the constantly changing fonts and changes from prose to what seemed like pseudo-poetry that one of us had the idea of running it through a speech-to-text software that sounded like Stephen Hawking. And guess what? This book sounded like a 94 out of 100 like “D'Aprile's Fools” by Michael DeAngelo. It is actually amazing to “read” or hear it this way! The action is good and practically non-stop—the way a good sci-fi novel should be. We're always going from place to place, conflict to conflict, hitting beat after beat. There's a sense of mystery and foreboding. What's more? The core character, Kyle, is actually a pretty interesting character. First of all, he's an overpowered character who happens to be named Kyle. He's not Cypher Rage. He's not Han Solo. He's not Klaatu. He's not Max Rockatansky. He's not Malcolm Reynolds. He's JUST KYLE.
Remember in Monte Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail when we meet the powerful, menacing wizard who just so happens to be named Tim? That's the feeling that we got from Kyle.
There's literally a part of this book when a character says something along the lines of, “We don't have any weapons, but we have Kyle.” How bad#$@ do you need to be to prompt someone to say that? So what saves Kyle from falling into Gary Stu or Mary Sue territory? It's because he does seem to have vulnerabilities. He's a “chimera”--a kind of alien-human hybrid. He's fighting for control of his own body and for the preservation of his conscience the way that Cloud Strife does in Final Fantasy VII. And the author actually does a good job at showing him nearing a more bestial or less-human side. One of the things that seems to be affected is his increased hunger and his aforementioned libido. He also seems to be becoming increasingly more prone to violence and bloodlust. Or maybe we were just reading too much into an otherwise simple story element.
When the gore is described, it's horrifying. There's a scene in here in which dead or nearly-dead aliens are basically vacuum-sealed into body bags for research.
When the space stuff is described, it's convincingly... spacy. We hear about how space travel makes the space marines feel sick or dizzy and that it takes some time to acclimate to. Some of them compare the smaller storms they're facing to the larger ones on bigger planets.
When the sex is described, it's... sexy. Not to get too explicit, but you can read this example:
“Together they were piston[s] in [a] cylinder, fire igniting every stroke, breathing out sweet, hormone-laden exhaust. Kyle’s long hair hung sweaty in her flushed face, plastered across his cheek and neck.”
When the action is described, it's tense and thrilling. It's like Starship Troopers when you just know people are getting messed up in the coming violence and lots of people are probably going to die with no chance of insta-healing or resurrection.
There are also true moments of literary gold like this part when a character considers the contrasting futures of dying and going to heaven or living on with his wife:
“I love both. I will love the life up there, but I embrace my love life down here. Good is good, with a woman and with God. I must live with both of them like best friends, and death will not prevent that. But the wheel of time lays an iron whip on my days. Time is all about business. Linear time is my diligent taskmaster, demanding this body put one foot in front of the other, all the way to the grave. I must keep apace of the fate I was born to until it is my turn to fall under the Great Wheels of Father Time.”
So, this book is so agonizingly close to being one of the most incredible things we've seen in the contest, held back only by its challenging stylistic choices and being short on one or two rounds of edits.
And—wait a minute... what? This is some kind of “space rock opera?” That's a thing that exists? As in it's intended to be performed on a stage by a band with theater actors? That's why there's a giant space guitar on the top of every chapter? That's why parts just randomly become “pseudo-poetry” like song lyrics? Ohhh... So that's why it sounds so good!
Check out this beautiful disaster of a novel and make sure you listen to it via speech-to-text. You won't regret it. It's incredible that way! Check it out on Amazon!