Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review: 'Day of Atonement' by Martin Berman-Gorvine

Washington, DC author Martin Berman-Gorvine is a professional journalist, currently serving as a reporter for the Bureau of National Affairs newsletter Human Resources Report. He has published seven books to date, and has become a popular science fiction writer, winning awards in both Canada and the US.

DAY OF ATONEMENT is Book 3 of Martin’s Days of Ascension series and in keeping with his apparent faith in his readers’ enjoyment of his works he has previously stated a background for the series: ‘After defeating the powerful demon Moloch and ending the horrid custom of human sacrifice in Chatham's Forge, teenagers Amos Ross, Suzie Mitchell, and Vickie Riordan find that freedom is elusive and evil a constant presence in their home town of Chatham's Forge, as the demon Asherah arises and demands her share of blood.’

Martin’s books fall into the Young Adult range and that is a receptive audience to science fiction and the occult and all things mysterious enough to defray the realities of our current time. His writing style punctuates the importance of involving characters with whom the YA audience can identify.
For example, in opening Book 3 of his series, Martin writes, ‘Waking up to your best friend hanging herself from a tree is not the best way to start your day. I sigh and put down the brimming water bucket I’m hauling up from the creek. “Vickie, again?” I call. There’s no sound except for the wind in the treetops and the gentle creaking of the stout branch Vickie has tied the rope to. I’m not fooled. I hold my breath as I approach her swaying, barefooted body, ignoring it for the moment as I study the tree, looking for the easiest way to climb up. Inconsiderate as usual, she’s chosen an oak with no branches less than eight or ten feet above the ground. She must have flown up there, in fact, to have tied the rope around the limb supporting her weight. Vickie’s charcoal-gray gown billows in the breeze as her body spins gently, winding the rope clockwise, then counterclockwise, reversing direction every thirty seconds or so. Her head is tilted to her right, as if she’s thinking over the answer to a question, and her red curly hair has flopped over to conceal most of her face. A stranger happening on the scene would immediately assume she’s dead. I know better. Despite her stubborn silence, she’s as alive as me, and she’s only causing me major inconvenience. “This is never going to work. You know you can’t die,” I say as I eye a nearby birch tree, wondering whether I can shimmy up close enough to jump onto the branch she’s hanging from. I can’t touch her, of course, not unless I want a vivid vision of all the people she killed when she was a Priestess of Asherah. My only option is cutting the rope with my pocketknife and letting her loosen the Georgia necktie herself. But I have to remember not to breathe through my nose as I climb up to rescue her, because a stench of mingled sewage and fresh blood surrounds her for yards in every direction. A walking eau d’slaughterhouse, that’s my best friend.”

A distillation of the plot is provided – ‘When human rebels overthrow a god of human sacrifice, only to bring about the rise of a goddess even more cruel and perverse, is there any chance human dignity and freedom can survive? High school sweethearts Amos and Suzie have been surviving in the woods with their two little children and a small band of the like-minded for seven years, ever since they destroyed the bloodthirsty god Moloch. Their friend Vickie is with them, but she lives under a curse because she fell under the spell of the goddess Asherah, murdered dozens of people in her name, and then turned against her. Can Vickie overcome her overwhelming guilt and the curse that exiles her from human society—and can she and her friends bring Asherah down? And if they do, what new bloodthirsty gods lie in waiting?’

Solid concepts and skills and the ability to weave a story that captivates the reader from the start, Martin Berman-Gorvine has taken his place on the popular bench of YA Sci-Fi authors. Grady Harp, April 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

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.

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