Title: Shadows of the Mind (Pembroke Eve Chronicles #1)
Author: Mark Alders
Publisher: Extasy Books
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M science fiction romance
Length: 235 pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Dawson’s Creek meets Alien B-movie flick in this entertaining sci-fi story which unfortunately fails to find a comfortable tone.
Jacob Theison thinks he’s better than all the other folk who live in the picturesque town of Pembroke Eve. It’s no place for a modern guy and he wants to leave, try his luck on the greener pastures of anywhere else.
That is until he realizes one thing. Deep down he’s just like everyone else, a country guy through and through. That realization comes just in time, because on a moonlit night a green glowing spaceship lands in Wilson’s field. Aliens, it seems, are real. But why are they in Pembroke Eve of all places? Pembroke is a nowhere place. And why is everyone acting weird all of a sudden, even more so that usual? Are the aliens’ friendly or do they have a more sinister reason for being here?
It seems Jacob is the only one who can see what’s really going on. But why him? What’s so special about a gay young man living in a small town? Sure, he’s never had a boyfriend, never been kissed for that matter, so why? Curious, he goes to investigate the spaceship and gets far more than he bargained for as soon as he gets over his back fence. His life will never be the same again.
Pembroke Eve Chronicles
Shadows of the Mind has been one of those books which I’ve found hard to rate. On one hand this was a greatly entertaining and interesting science fiction story about aliens who abduct a whole small town for nefarious purposes; yet on the other hand there were some parts of the book which made me wince, cringe and groan aloud. Had it been that I felt that the book was a pastiche or supposed to be a comedy, then I may have given the book a much higher grade, but the tone of the book wasn’t right for a comedy – it was too earnest and I honestly thought that I was supposed to be taking the story at least a little bit seriously. This meant that I was torn between liking the book for the adventure plot, but disliking it for not being able to find comfortable ground in the tone of the writing.
The story follows 18 year old Jacob, who appears to be the only gay man in his small town. He’s just going to bed one night when he spots a strange green light in the field behind his house. He decides to go and investigate and on the way bumps into two men, former lovers Derek and Callum, who were travelling through the town, saw a space-ship land in the field and have come to investigate. It isn’t long before the men are running for their lives as they uncover the secret to the alien landing.
Jacob is the first person narrator of the story and I did find him a little difficult to like at times. He’s your typical 18 year old man, self-absorbed and very concerned about the state of his dick, and the lack of action for a gay man in his small town. Jacob thinks about sex a lot, pretty much most of the time, to be honest, and often at the most inappropriate moments. I found this a bit tiresome, especially when he was in a dangerous situation and all he could think about was having sex, or lusting after someone. His internal voice sounds just like a hormone crazed teenager and he often tells the reader things that, frankly, I’d rather not know, for example, take this passage from the beginning of the book:
Actually, replace reading the magazine with jacking off to the magazine and you will then know what my night-time routine usually involves. Hey, what can I say? As I said, I’m a hormone-soaked young man that also needs a lot of stress relief. One thing I had learned from the toilet incident back at school was to capture most of my fluid within my foreskin. As I am about to cum, I pinch the skin closed. Less mess that way.
Thanks for that, Jacob.
Part way through the book, Jacob teams up with Callum and two other teens from the town Suzie and Zane. I liked Suzie and Zane, and thought their bickering and sniping quite entertaining. Four teens together led to teenage angst and the book veered into The Breakfast Club territory as the teens pour out their hearts and secrets to one another – during which I time I was thinking “but what about the aliens?!”. It all seemed rather odd to have such soul-baring in the middle of being hunted by aliens, and left me wondering why it had been included.
As well as not really being able to identify with the teenage narrator, his friends and their problems, I also found the prose in general to be very overblown. This meant that emotions were so exaggerated they became unrealistic. Characters weren’t just shocked or frightened, they peed themselves; they weren’t just worried or upset, they vomited all over themselves; they screamed and shrieked instead of shouting; they fell in love within minutes of meeting each other. I found it quite exhausting keeping up with all the extremes of emotion.
The science fiction aspect of the book was handled very well. I liked the reasons for the alien visitation, liked the horror of what was happening to the townspeople. There were a few bits that could have been thought out a bit better – such as why Callum and Derek were not able to defeat the mind-field being just as gay as Jacob; or the convenience of Jacob blacking out so we don’t find out how they escape the alien space-ship; or how Mr Barnaby managed to get the thing he gets (sorry being vague there as don’t want to give away spoilers), but they were just minor blips in what was an unusual sci-fi story.
Despite its flaws, this book was incredibly engrossing. It’s a real page turner and I enjoyed reading it which is why I’ve placed it at the top of the 3 star band. The section towards the end was particularly well done, as were some of the characters, especially Mr Barnaby. As I said at the beginning, the book was hard to rate and if the tone had been lighter and the book more obviously humourous then I may have given this in the four stars. As it is the mix of very serious drama, horror and (perhaps unintentional) comedy sat uneasily together. If you like sci-fi and want to read something a bit different then you may like this book. I liked it enough that I’m looking forward to the next book in The Pembroke Eve Chronicles series, which looks to be about the whole town turning into zombies. Hopefully Jacob will be on hand to save the day again.