Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: 'Elevator Quest' by Emmanuel M. Arriaga

California author Emmanuel M Arriaga spent his early years in the inner city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, obsessed with fantasy and science fiction. Stepping out of low-income life, Emmanuel developed an interest in science, technology and engineering. He went on to graduate from Pennsylvania State University with a Master’s in Information Science, spent time in the financial industry before landing a job with Google in Silicon Valley. His debut novel was the 2015 FOUNDRA: THE RIFT WAR and now he publishes his second novel ELEVATOR QUEST. With a solid foundation of this sort it is no surprise that he is able to create integral science fiction and fantasy in the manner of the current infatuation with IT instant adventure.

Emmanuel kicks off his tale with the incident that proves to be the driver – and we meet Tasha, the finely painted lead character in this complex and satisfying novel. ‘Autumn sunshine painted the floor of the large lobby, the d├ęcor old but impressive. Crowds of people were hurrying to elevators, ready to start a day’s work. Arnold sighed as he walked through the double doors of the office building that had become his second home. His muscles were still sore from his heavy workout the night prior. Arnold subconsciously rubbed his arm, his gaze coming up to meet that of his personal assistant, Ann Richards. The older, brown-haired European woman was waiting for him at the entrance to the elevators. Without a word, she fell into step beside him. They hurried into a waiting, packed elevator. He buttoned the top button of his exquisite black suit as he glanced around at the other people, many of whom eyed the large African American curiously. He returned their stares with a broad smile. A young Brazilian woman looked up at him from near the elevator control panel. “What floor?” Her expectant gray eyes immediately caught Arnold’s attention. “Twenty-seventh floor please,” he said. Arnold presented her with a dashing smile, which she returned, blushing slightly. Pressing the button, she looked down toward the floor as the elevator doors closed. Tasha watched the whole scene from the back of the elevator, a low sigh escaping her lips. She glanced from Arnold to the Brazilian woman, her stomach tightening. Shaking her head, she muttered under her breath. The words weren’t clearly audible, but if someone had listened closely enough, they would have heard a short rant about black men and light-skinned women. Tasha glanced at her own reflection in the elevator wall. There was insecurity in her gaze. Her gaze lingered on her own dark brown skin. Tasha noticed a Japanese American man watching her from the other side of the elevator. Suddenly caught, he glanced toward the ceiling, feigning innocence. Letting out another sigh, Tasha pulled out her smartphone and turned up the volume to her earbuds. The elevator started to rapidly ascend.
Arnold leaned back against the wall. Thoughts of his busy schedule filled his mind. He would be giving a presentation to the CEO in an hour, and he felt that he was just steps away from being appointed the next managing director of his firm. A crackle of electricity could be heard from above. A few people glanced around, seeking reassurance. The lights in the elevator began to flicker. Gasps went up from throughout the packed metal box. “What in the world?” Glances of concern were exchanged. Arnold pushed through the crowd toward the control panel. The elevator began to slow before eventually coming to a stop. Arnold glanced up at the ceiling. The sounds of creaking cables caused his heart to skip a beat. Looking around with a controlled calm, his years of service in Iraq rushing back to the forefront of his mind, Arnold went into emergency mode. “Everyone remain still!” he shouted. His booming voice pulled the attention of everyone in the elevator. Tasha hit pause on her smartphone.’

And it is just that degree of characterization and creation of intrigue that fills ever page. The synopsis outline the story well – ‘When the elevator cable snaps, they all think they are going to die. Instead, Tasha and her office colleagues find themselves trapped in a fantasy world, the crash only the beginning of their problems as they fight for survival. But the mystery of what happened gnaws at them as they venture deeper into an adventure filled with monsters, mystical weapons, and deadly challenges.’

Strong writing with a subtle commentary on racial conflicts make this a successful novel. Grady Harp, March 18

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.