Review – Children of the Gods: The Talon Project by Darryl Olsen

childrenEver seen the show Ancient Aliens? This book is kind of like that. If you love that show and would enjoy reading a Science Fiction-esque thriller of similar quality, then I’ll give you the buy button straight away. It’s here. You needn’t read the rest of this review.

Still with me?

Good. I’d like to continue with the comparison I’ve just made for a bit longer and point out that I’ve never seen an episode of Ancient Aliens in its entirety. I’ve never been able to make it through.

A quick browse of the Amazon page will show you many reviews with 4 and 5 stars. Critics there will say they cannot wait for the sequel. That the adventure has just begun and they are waiting with baited breath to see what unfolds. In this respect, these critics are absolutely correct. At 68 pages, the author does not accomplish much more than set up the promise for what must be a longer story. After finishing the work, I too looked online for the sequel. Not because I was experiencing the ride of my life and wanted to continue, but because I had felt that the events of the story had promised me something and then failed to deliver. My mind tried to rationalize the feeling with: “Oh there must be a sequel. Everything will be better in the sequel.”

One of the initial reasons I had looked forward to reading the story was because of the shorter page length. I’ve often said that stories in SF & (especially) Fantasy often span for too long. Single volumes commonly span for 1,000 pages. With the amount of time I have for reading, this type of volume could take me months to complete. Children of the Gods: The Talon Project wasn’t long enough, but I don’t feel that it needs more pages (I see now that this is a very complicated opinion).  My best explanation of this opinion is that I believe much more could have been done in the amount of writing. Tighten up.

CotG sets reporter Michael Cohen on the trail of a big scoop. He begins pursuing the lead and what he uncovers is a conspiracy to hide certain knowledge from the American public & the world at large. I use ‘uncovers’ generously because he really doesn’t ‘uncover’ anything. He is told where to go and what to believe. The reader follows Cohen, digests the same ‘evidence’ and is expected to buy in to a premise which the main character himself doesn’t really believe. Now, we’re in a fictional story, pretty much anything can be true, so long as it is true within the context of the story. If you’d like to posit that every culture on the planet is descendant from an alien race, show us that it is. Arguably, there is some dialogue which says: “Hey! You know this passage from the bible? It’s in there because . . . Aliens!”

COTGbanner

Our protagonist feels the evidence is dubious because he is Jewish, and while not really religious, must overcome a life time of belief to accept this news. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the story, but the passage is only half given and I didn’t recognize what was. I’m no biblical scholar but I’m guessing there aren’t many in the demographic who will read this story. Give us the whole passage.

Some of the other reviewers, bring up a comparison to Robert Langdon, and The Da Vinci Code. I think this demonstrates what I’m trying to say perfectly. If I remember correctly, Dan Brown’s ‘thesis’ in The Da Vinci Code was that the Holy Grail Myth was actually a complex set of symbols designed to conceal the fact that Jesus Christ had a child, and to conceal who that child (bloodline) actually was. This was very dangerous information because its revelation would upset the validity of the Catholic church. The power dynamic of our entire society would have been thrown in to chaos.

Awesome. Love it.

I see CotG as having a similar premise. A code, which once revealed, will open up an entire galaxy. The danger here being that once it is open for us to leave, it might be open for others to enter. We don’t know what to expect. Again, awesome. Love this premise too. Problem is, Dan Brown’s story was so tightly crafted, with so much attention to detail, that actual churches were banning it. While, I can’t expect this level of craft every thriller I read, this is the end we should be shooting for. Also, you’ll  note that The Da Vinci Code is a much longer story. However, I think TotG could have benefited from a similar attention to detail even at the shorter page length.

So, I hope I’ve been able to give an honest and serious discussion about Children of the Gods: The Talon Project. If anybody has read this story, and the review and has thoughts they would like to share, please comment below. I’d love to here them. Bye for now!

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Review: Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Cover!

Cover!

READ THIS BOOK! But seriously. Read it. I don’t believe I have read, or will read this year, such a thought provoking book. Trust Me, I’m Lying is touted as a ‘tell-all’, insider’s look, into the world of Public Relations and Marketing by someone who has worked for some of the biggest brands and largest celebrities in this country.  In reality, this book is really a condemnation of social media, the internet, blogging culture and modern journalism. And it’s none too nice. Holiday names names, exposes scandals, and generally points out the flaws in a culture that values clicks over quality.

I originally heard about this book because it was mentioned on a website (copyblogger.com) that I follow pretty religiously. The post that referenced Trust Me, I’m Lying talks about an idea called the ‘content cliff’ in which the amount and quality of content on the web will be so high that brands will no longer be able get their message heard over the noise. Essentially, the cost of content marketing will exceed the profits gained by it and the entire system will collapse on itself (this article by Mark Schaefer describes it more explicitly). The Copyblogger article argues that trust and authority need to be built within the audience through quality of content. That consumers will be able to sift through all the garbage and brands which are truly good at what they do will come out on top. This is something I’d like to believe is true.

I picked up a copy of Trust Me, I’m Lying hoping to pick up some tricks of the trade, and implement them so that I might see some higher traffic both here at A&A  and for my posts at AmazingStoriesMag.com which I contribute to occasionally. I would like to have a consistent quality of content in both places and over time build some semblance of authority in topics I enjoy writing about (mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy). However, having a few articles go viral wouldn’t be a bad thing to get me off the ground. If that required gaming the system a little, then perhaps it might be worth it.

creepy

creepy

After reading Holiday’s book, I’ve come to two conclusions:

A) I’m not in a position to enact any of the types of ‘plays’ he’d used to achieve his goals (and I’m not sure how he was able to get into those positions. He’s only 27!)

B) I don’t believe I could go through with them if I was in a position to do them.

Holiday posits a world in which reporting is done quickly and inaccurately, meaning there is a lot of room for manipulation. What is worse, is that there is almost no repercussions for the people advancing the system. If you’re reporting incorrect material, there is literally no consequence for you as a reporter as long as you’re getting enough page views. Unfortunately, the subjects of this kind of reporting are basically ruined forever.

Holiday goes on to show different situations in which he was able to exploit this culture for his own ends and those he worked for. His manipulations, while effective, do not seem to have nefarious intent. If American Apparel is able to sell a couple thousand more units of clothing because of some banned ads which were ‘leaked’ to the media, I don’t feel like many people were hurt in this transaction. However, Holiday points out that there are other instances in which entire careers have been made or ruined through the same kind of manipulation of the media.

I was a little disappointed at the end of the book. Holiday went to great lengths to describe how the media culture was broken, but then wrote almost nothing about how he believed we should go about fixing it. To me, it was something of a cop out. However, all things considered, Trust Me, I’m Lying is probably one of the most important books I’ve read this year. Puts a lot of things in to perspective.

Go forth and read!