Review of “Constance” by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Another random ebook review, but this time I have good news (sort of). I enjoyed this story, especially because I didn’t like the central character but nevertheless sympathized with their situation. It was easy to turn the pages. I even read extra every day to finish it. There was no stalling, dreading the day’s reading chore, not with this story. There’s a reason for that, which is why I refer to “sort of” good news.

The story uses every standard technique I’ve ever seen to keep the reader interested. The protagonist has no choice but to do what they do, no matter how stupid the act is. The narrator even comments on the character’s wishing she had another choice repeatedly. One bad choice after another is a classic technique, all the while the protagonists is learning something that will save them in the end. There were so many potential antagonists that I thought I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. All of it plausible in terms of the story line, which ends with the big reveal of the true bad guy, who explains the entire complex scheme before…

I loved it.

The central character is believable most of the time although I questioned her attitude towards one of the people who’d actually helped her. But it was plausible because she was presented as emotional, stubborn, and not a little irrational (a musician). The author made the protagonist come alive through her interest in “golden oldies,” rock stars from the 70s to the 2000s. I enjoyed looking up some of these groups and listening to the songs referred to in the book. It was a multimedia experience!

The author had to work hard to get all this to happen, so the story twists and turns with one improbable escape after another. Can’t be helped (I shrug helplessly) to get all these adrenaline-pumping scenes in an average-length novel. Corners were cut. The basic premise is weak, but then there are only so many ideas; for example, the science part of this speculative science fiction story has been discussed frequently, as in the 2000 movie The Sixth Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger no less. Despite the popularity of the concept, “Constance” is a well-done treatment of the subject from a very personal perspective.

On a technical note, I was impressed with the author’s writing style…until I wasn’t. First my usual observation: grammatical errors increased after a little more than halfway through (better than most), but within 15 pages of the end, incomplete sentences reared up, thoughts that diverged significantly from actions, inconsistencies in the background and with action only a few pages previous. I figured it all out because these weren’t plot issues; but as I’ve said before, when I have to reread several pages back to figure out what I missed…well, I don’t like doing that.

Now I get to the “sort of” designation. Simple stories like “Old Yeller” tend to be well written because they are, well, simple. Fred Gipson probably wrote that heartwarming and heartbreaking story in an afternoon. Fitzsimmons has written a very complex story that addresses scientific and social issues that are already creating dissent throughout society, and it isn’t even 2038 yet. Still, a few more weeks could have gotten this novel another star from me.

I gave it three stars, which is actually a good rating from someone like me (I don’t care what anyone else thinks) and, besides, if I give four or five stars to a formulaic novel with a predictable ending, what do I do when I read something truly great? This isn’t creative writing class, so 10% of the books I read don’t get an “A.” No curve here, no matter what the critics say.

I recommend this book for a fun reading adventure that will also make you spend a few minutes wondering what it means to be human.

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