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REVIEW: The Arachne Portal – Joan Marie Verba

The Arachne Portal - Joan Marie Verba

Genre: Sci-Fi

Reviewer: Lee

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About The Book

Women scientists having fun saving the world…unless someone kills them first and steals their tech.

Their goal is to make the world a better place. One billionaires’s obsession may turn their altruism into destruction.

Jay Ecklund is desperate to belong somewhere. Rejected by his family and former employer, he really needs this job as a receptionist at an up-and-coming tech corporation. He’s astonished when he discovers the all-woman staff is secretly developing a portal capable of instantaneous transport to anywhere on Earth.

Thrilled to be part of a company designing innovations to help others, Jay is excited when the machine is at last operational. But he worries about it falling into the wrong hands when an ambitious billionaire hell-bent on accumulating power makes a bid to get it…at any cost.

Will the portal be used as a rescue device as intended, or will a relentless manipulator warp it to a more sinister purpose?

The Arachne Portal is an electrifying standalone science fiction novel. If you like fast-paced adventures, phenomenal science, and thought-provoking themes, then you’ll love Joan Marie Verba’s compelling story.

The Review

Joan Marie Verba’s the Arachne Portal (AP) follows Jay, a well-intentioned young man with a history of violence and mild mental illness as he gets a job as a receptionist at a secretive high-tech firm run entirely by women. The company appears to be well-managed and has created numerous profit-making inventions. The newest innovation is a game changer: a teleportation device that the company has altruistic plans for.

The prose has a bare, perfunctory feel where events take place in a vacuum of feeling. As in this passage about a party that Jay and his coworkers attend, events are related to the reader with all the prose of a grocery list. This robs them entirely of significance:

At the end of the evening, Thelma and Ned announced fireworks, so everyone made their way outside and sat on the grass or in the sand to watch. Once the fireworks were over, they thanked their hosts and Jean flew them back home.

In early November, an ice storm hit the Austin metro area during the evening rush hour.

We go from the party to an ice storm with no context, feeling or meaning. There is little point given to this event, and many of the other events in AP.

This lack of depth affects most of the characters, even Jay, who we know best. He has a history of mental illness, but this aspect of his life is underexplored. Jay’s position as the lone male was an opportunity missed to explore better what a company of built solely by female geniuses might be like and why they hired a lone male in the first place. An absence of concrete detail afflicts the handling of the cast. The security chief is the lone exception. She has a toothpick in her mouth throughout the story. A few chuckles come out of this, but the story needed a lot more in this vein. I wanted to know Jay and the clever crew of female entrepreneurs, but this never happened.

There is a notable lack of personal stakes in AP. Jay is taken in by this phenomenal group of women, eventually living in the company’s residence, but he barely has a thought or emotion about it. If he has feelings about the women, positive or negative, it is a mystery to the reader. This is not a case of Jay’s stoicism; his feelings and the feelings of the other characters barely register. The lack of emotional subtext fatally undermines the dramatic tension.

Takeaway: This book offers a look at a female driven technology company with altruistic intentions but is undermined by a lack of emotional depth and dramatic tension.

The Reviewer

Lee has a background in physics and applied science, but has always enjoyed reading fiction. His first serious forays in writing came from dungeon mastering and high school drama club, although for nearly three decades as a geophysicist, he wrote only non-fiction. At the age of 25, Lee spent a prolonged period of time on the edge of death, had the last rights read to him, and enjoyed several near death experiences. Not even all the morphine could make him forget those. Lee enjoys rock climbing, cycling, hiking, swimming and writing. He is an Ironman Triathlete.

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