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By Mary Fan
Red Adept Publishing
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Because of CCLaP's policy of reviewing every book that gets sent to us, I tend to read a whole lot of titles exactly like Mary Fan's Artificial Absolutes, part of a scourge of mediocre genre novels that are quite literally choking the small-press part of the publishing industry to death these days. The problem with such books, and why they've grown to be so troubling for the industry in general, is precisely that they're not terrible, so can't just be automatically rejected or ignored -- Fan writes with just exactly the kinds of skills you would expect from some Creative Writing 135 student at some random community college somewhere, turning in a sci-fi actioner here with clunky but not horrible exposition, wooden but not horrible dialogue, expected but not horrible plot turns, and a heavy dose of "Cyber-Fill In The Blank" to remind us on every page that we're in the FUUUUTURE (at one point a character literally refers to a "holographic calendar" on the wall, 'cause THERE AIN'T NO READING DATES IN 2D IN THE FUUUUUUUTURE), all wrapped up in the generic-looking, overly Photoshopped cover that you would absolutely and exactly expect from such a book. In the past, such a manuscript would sit in every publishing company's slush pile until the end of time; but in the world we live in now, where every manuscript that's ever been written can be easily turned into a paperback book at Amazon a week after finishing it, that's exactly what is happening in the millions, leading to a publishing industry that is literally drowning in subpar genre thrillers and that threatens to fatally implode from the sheer overload of bland forgettable novels that will eventually be read by exactly 76 people. Like I said, you can't just dismiss a book like Artificial Absolutes, because it's just exactly not-terrible enough to justify its existence (and to be clear, its Goodreads page is filled with enthusiastic reviews from genre fans who liked it a lot more than I did); but reading too many of these blandly mediocre small-press books is enough to kill one's soul, or at least put a serious damper on one's enthusiasm for small-press literature. Buyer beware.
Out of 10: 7.0