Sunday, February 4, 2018

Book Review: 'Sixth Prime' by Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien certainly has the credentials to be an established writer, having written both novels and screenplays. He is young (born 1981 in Connecticut) and has a fascinating background: originally from the East Coast he now lives in California where in addition to writing (his passion) he is a graduate student in Experimental Psychology, a fitness trainer, and a practitioner of martial arts. Before starting Amalgam, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. In addition, he has spent over a decade in the publishing industry as a freelance editor. He is an astute member of the leading edge of self-publishing and understands how to not only write his books but how to get them in front of the public eye. In his words, `I was under an impression - perhaps a misguided one - that led me to believe that being a successful novelist meant attaining a lucrative contract with a top tier publishing house. This is not to say that such an achievement is not my goal. That is hardly the case. What is the case is managing a more realistic outlook on the kind of writer I am right now. I am not a mass product capable of attracting the attention of those kinds of monoliths of the writing industry because my writing does not have that mass appeal so important in that world. As such, I need to cultivate the smaller markets and advertise where I can.'

Through many genres of writing Dan seems to always come out on top and SIXTH PRIME is no exception. And knowing that this volume is Book 1 of The Prime Saga reassures us that his venture into the galaxies will prove enthralling. The characters he introduces in this saga are anything but usual as we can tell form his opening page subtitled ‘The curious case of Ale Euclid’: ‘Canvases lined the walls. Smudged and erratic strokes revealed a quiet genius encumbered by a great sadness. The open space in which the somber artist brooded appeared larger than it was. Ale Euclid suffered from a tendency to check out from his surroundings, imbuing his personal experiences with a special kind of significance felt only by those who wrote the story of their lives with broad strokes of emotional connection. Outside, the darkness of the light-filled metropolis ebbed and flowed like the lapping shores of the island on which it sprawled. The bustling world around him not only satisfied the collectivistic yearning of his gregariousness, but also allowed him to disappear from the crowd behind closed doors, playing to the reserved sensibilities of an artist in the midst of a storm of conflicting and contrasting ideals. Ale had few friends except for a small circle of fellow painters and artists who populated the Inked District of the remote island of Nyan, the largest of the Tranquil Isles. Ale placed a special emphasis on the aesthetics and ambiance of
his surroundings, which made island life amidst the peaceful, harmonious culture of Nyan the ideal backdrop for his inspiration. The outer door of his loft beeped rhythmically, a sliver of light infecting the purposeful darkness of his studio. Ale did not move, instead remaining motionless. His gaze was intently fixed on an almost-finished piece he called Constancy, a magnificent representation of the universe reduced to darkness and light battling toward an inevitable end. Yet, it remained unfinished.’

But inviting though that is, the synopsis signals the reason for the title: ‘ A war brews as a galaxy struggles to maintain a peace treaty signed in haste. The Commonwealth boasts sprawling cities built upon slums. The Sovereignty has placed the yoke of industry upon its citizens. Sixteen men and women are connected in a way they cannot yet understand. A murder of a prominent artist begins a chain of events that will ultimately determine the fate of the universe. Only thirteen will remain. In the end, there can be only one Prime. Are you a Prime?’

Mystery, intrigue and some intellectually challenging twists make this first episode mesmerizing and leaves us eager for Book 2. Grady Harp, July 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.