Tuesday, November 01, 2011

I see what you did there, with that final answer. Clever. (Indie Book Review)

What's this about? Click here for an explanation.

IF you were given a chance to meet your great-grandfather and steal some of his cells to make a clone of him in order to make jillions of dollars for someone you hate, would you do it?

That's one -- just one -- of the many questions posed by the excellent book Lyon's Legacy, by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan.

Joanna Lyon is a descendant of the great Sean Lyon, a 1960s-era rocker whose untimely death only cemented his legend and made life intolerable for his heirs, who, while wealthy, are also expected to carry on the family's music tradition -- which is awful for Joanna, who chose to be a geneticist than a rock star, almost escaping her family until her uncle forces her into working for him to steal Sean's genetic material.

It turns out that in Lyon's Legacy, there are parallel universes - -perhaps many -- and they don't progress at the same rate, so when a wormhole opens to a world in which Sean is still alive, Joanna's uncle, desperate to reinvigorate the family's name (or wealth) gets Jo to reluctantly agree to journey to that world to steal Sean's DNA.

I recently read Lyon's Legacy, which has only just come out, and loved it. Almazan's mixture of real (seeming?) science, science-fiction, and family dynamics plays out extremely well, and the story remains relatable while never becoming predictable, which is to say that every time I thought "Oh, I bet this happens," it didn't and something even better happened. The characters are believable and well-written and the story manages that delicate balance of description and action; it's neither Vonnegut-esquely sparse nor John Irving-ishly overwhelming in detail.

I don't read quickly, but the book isn't a long one and it drew me back to it each night to find out what happened next.

Among the most interesting things Almazan does in this book is the character of Sean Lyon himself; for the first 1/3 of the book or so, Sean is simply someone everyone mentions, with varying degrees of reverence or anger, and he becomes and outsized notion, so when Almazan actually brings Sean into the story, it could have been disastrous, but Sean was one of my favorite characters in the book, which speaks of the skill Almazan displays.

Lyon's Legacy is a must-read for anyone who wants a brisk but compelling story that manages to center a family story amidst the wonder of science. Buy it on Amazon, at B&N, or Smashwords. (I'll put those links at the end, so feel free to go on to the interview with Sandra, below.)


I sent to Sandra a series of questions that I call "10 1/2 questions," for her, to help you get to know her, her book, and her thinking process a little better. Each author gets three questions about the book, three about herself, three that I just feel like asking, and then, for good measure, one unsolveable problem and one half-question. Let's see how she did:

1. Your book spans two universes and makes reference to a variety of corporations, diseases, disasters that apparently have happened, and other societal changes. Did you flesh out Jo's universe before beginning writing, or did you make it up on the fly?

I created the universe as I went along. Some things I came up with because they were useful to the plot, like a mega-music corporation and a disease that kept Jo's mother quarantined.
Other ideas came out of things I've read about, like clothing that can warm or cool the wearer.
2. Your book surprised me by continuously heading in a different direction than I thought, including when Jo leaves Sean. Did you give any thought to having Jo stay with Sean longer?

Honestly, no. Joanna is a woman of her own universe, and there's more for her in her world (such as George and her job on the Sagan) than in Sean's.

3. I loved the explanation about how the parallel universes form. But does that mean that Jo's actions in what I'll call universe 2 created a different universe again? And will we be seeing other parallel universes in the future?

Jo's actions have started something, but the process isn't complete. For that, you have to wait for Book Two of the Catalyst Chronicles, Twinned Universes. There will be other parallel universes coming into play as the series continues.

4. Your blog lists 146 books that you've read SO FAR in 2011. Off the top of your head, what's your favorite thing you read so far this year?

Without looking at the list, I would say my favorite book so far is The Night Circus. It's not often I find a fantasy book that really inspires a sense of wonder in me, but this one did with its dream-like visions of a fantastic circus with unusual acts that comes and goes without warning.

5. Which Beatles album that's NOT Abbey Road is the best?

Abbey Road is my favorite, but my second favorite (the one you're asking for) is Revolver. It's got some lesser-known but still powerful songs, such as "She Said She Said," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "For No One," and the final track "Tomorrow Never Knows."

6. Do you still write poetry?

Not often; in fact, I'm having trouble remembering the last one I wrote. But I do write poetry occasionally for my stories. I came up with all the song lyrics in Lyon's Legacy. I'll let the readers judge how good they are!
[My note: Ordinarily, when an author puts song lyrics into a book, I find them corny and unbelievable, such as in Norman Spinrad's Little Heroes. But Sandra's lyrics worked very well.]

7. Which classic McDonald's sandwich would you rather they bring back next, the "McDLT" or the "Arch Deluxe?"

I haven't eaten either of them; I prefer the chicken and fish sandwiches. However, I used to work at McDonald's, and I remember the McDLT sandwich boxes as being huge. So just to make it easier on the workers, I'll say the Arch Deluxe.

8. If for some reason we were required to contract the United States to get down to 48, which two states would you fold into other states, and why?

Indiana is the first one to go. When I was in grad school, I had to drive all the way across the state to see my boyfriend (now husband) in vet school, so I still hold that against the state. ;) I'd also break up Texas. Because the state is so huge, it wields a lot of influence with school textbooks, and the creationists take advantage of that. Let's break up their power so we can teach science properly!

9. True Or False: Stephen King's criticisms of Stephanie Meyer are totally justified.

Opinions aren't statements of fact and therefore cannot be called true or false.

The Unsolvable Question:

10. The Sorites Paradox: Imagine a heap of sand, from which you remove one grain of sand at a time. Once only one grain remains, is the heap still a heap? If not, when did it stop being a heap?

The heap stops being a heap when you no longer have at least two grains of sand on top of each other.

And the final half-question: Finish, then answer, this question:

1/2: The "Rabbit's Foot" in Mission: Impossible 3... ?

... is? Answer: Very unlucky.

REMEMBER: Lyon's Legacy is available on Amazon, at B&N, or Smashwords. Go buy it today. Now. What are you waiting for? We're done here.

Well, almost done.

Want your book read by me? You don't even have to send a free copy -- I'll BUY one. Just email me by clicking here, and put the name of your book and your name in the subject line, then tell me where to find it and I'll get around to reading it, and you'll get YOUR OWN QUIZ!


Rogue Mutt said...

I don't think I could answer most of those questions. But she must read your other blog to know how unfun those McDLT boxes were.

Stephen Hayes said...

I'm not familiar with this book but based on your recommendation I'll give it a peek.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Thanks for having me, Briane! Your questions were fun but challenging.

Rogue, I remember from personal experience how hard it was to pack a McDLT box.

Stephen, I'd love it if you check out my book!

Rusty Webb said...

Good answers to some tough questions. Briane knows how to ask things that I don't think you would hear elsewhere.