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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Under the Amoral Bridge" by Gary A. Ballard (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Visit Gary A. Ballard's Blog Here
Under the Amoral Bridge from CreateSpace Here
Order Under the Amoral Bridge Ebook from Smashwords Here
Visit Under The Amoral Bridge's Amazon page Here

Author and Book Information:

Under the Amoral Bridge is Gary A. Ballard's debut novel. Under the Amoral Bridge was first published in a serialized format on Ballard's blog. It is currently a self-published paperback and stands at 162 pages with a bonus short story. Gary Ballard has used his background in web designing and created the cover for the book. This is the first book in the Bridge Chronicles.

Overview and Analysis:

I had read about Under the Amoral Bridge online and after reading the first chapter, I liked the writing enough to give the novel a try. In the end I'm very pleased with my experience with this book, and am happy that I gave this novel a try.

Under the Amoral Bridge is a cyberpunk novel set in Los Angeles in the year 2028. As dystopian futures go, this one has the best that technology has to offer and showcases the worst of humanity. The novel is set in a world where technology has made the world an easy place to live in and anyone can get their heart's desires, the moral and the amoral ones, at their fingertips. For the former, can be gotten from any of the corporate entity, as in this world the federal government has collapsed due to financial reasons (a pretty grim reminder for the future based on current recession-like situations). The current set up is run by corporation's who brought the city and state governments and are now running everything in a business like manner.

For the amoral requests, there are few options in town. The only way to get these requests is to be in touch with the go-to guy, Artemis Bridge, known as "Bridge". He always knows someone who can get you what you want, be it physically or mental, or both. It doesn't matter to him what the request as long as you pay, he'll fix you up.

The story takes off when readers are introduced to Artemis doing his usual setup with a customer. As the deal proceeds and appears to be completed successfully, a previous customer of Bridge's appears. This customer had a bad experience with a hacker set up by Bridge and wants retribution. Artemis is saved at the last minute from a deadly beating by the cops and picks himself up and continues on. A major event happens to Bridge as he is entrusted with a disk and a responsibility of sorts that he never bargained for. The people who orchestrated this event want this disk back, at any means necessary. Bridge recruits the help of friends and acquaintances to figure out what is on the disk that has been sent to him and the purpose behind him being the recipient.

Artemis Bridge, our central character and the main fix in the story. He is the main protagonist of this tale as readers experience the whole story through his eyes. He is the classic anti-hero, in that he isn't easy to like, has questionable morals and is willing to bend them to survive in the world. I'm sure this has been done before in other novels and most certainly will be done in the future as well. However in this setting it works, as readers will partly disregard the character traits and learn to appreciate that Artemis is doing what he knows best how to do; survive. He might not like what he's doing but yet he still continues to do it.

In the trade paperback there is also a short story called Feeding Autonomy which is set nearly 9 months before the events of Under the Amoral Bridge. This story gives readers a nice slice of the life and work of Artemis. In doing so this shows what makes Artemis such a conflicting and engrossing character to read about!

The book is a very fast paced novel as the events happen over a period of less than 48 hours. This creates a very quick read with plenty of action for readers. Gary A. Ballard's writing is very smooth and makes for an easy read. Of course there are a couple character cliches, namely a cynical anti-hero protagonist with a wise very strong sidekick. However due to the author's ability readers don't really focus on these character traits and instead just go with the flow of the story and enjoy the novel.

Ballard does a complete and thorough job of world building. It is inserted within the story without bulking up the novel to much. There are a few major info dumps done within the novel, but these are skillfully placed between conversations and flashbacks and do not obstruct the storyline or flow of the novel.

More details about the world can be found on Gary A. Ballard's blog and can be a fun, interesting read for those that are interested in the novel and want to learn more. There is the history of Los Angeles in the year 2028 as well as information about certain events that happen within the novel are given a greater more detailed explanation. Visit the blog information page here.

In the end, I was thoroughly impressed by Gary A. Ballard's debut effort. Even though the novel was only a 155 pages long it packs within those pages a complete and compact story which makes for a fast and delectable read. Readers should go in without any assumptions of self published works, as this story will definitely surprise you. Think of Under the Amoral Bridge as a nice sports car, smooth and compact, and gives you your money's worth in thrills.



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