I was generously given the opportunity to review Robert Bartlett’s novel that came out last year titled The Turing Revolt: The War Against Infinity Book 1. I was given a PDF version to review. You, however, can get it from Amazon. I was given permission by the author use quotes to develop this review, so let this serve as your warning that I present some potential spoilers.
Also check out his website and follow him on Twitter.
I love sci-fi. If I had to relate this book to other notable media it would be the plot of Star Trek with the character development of Lost Girl. So, if you’re into those, this might be up your alley. I think that adding earth fantasy into science fiction is an untapped goldmine. It’s certainly not anything, I’ve come across yet. Bartlett is a writer with ideas!
Bartlett writes, “One of the chief characteristics of successful vampires is a hugely inflated sense of self, a megalomaniacal ego,” and this description serves to describe the protagonist, Milo Sapphire, to the T. Like I’ve said, Bartlett has such great ideas, his world building mirrors Star Trek closely only with a more natural capitalist twist, but we’re stuck having to see it through the lens of a character who reminded me too much of the guys who wouldn’t leave my desk when I worked in the hotel industry. They knew I had to stand there for eight hours listening to them go on and on, which would always evolve into larger, more unbelievable tales as the night went on. And at the moment they thought I should react, they’d say something, like maybe a “heh” (looking at you Milo Sapphire with your 51 Heh’s at the end of narrative sentences), and I would purse my lips and nod my head to acknowledge that I heard them, but really I had given up listening a long time ago. As such, there was no actual room for character development. He’s already too awesome, the literal chosen one of He/it.
There was great world building, superior to most indie books, I’d say, but like the character development, it got bogged down by the narrator having to tell us over and over again how strong and powerful he was. <~ When it came to the point in the storyline for him to show how big and strong he was through action, it didn’t get delivered, and when it’s realized by the narrator that it wasn’t delivered, there’s continuous “well what happened was…” Additionally, there are at least four non-earth worlds, and at least 2 different sentient races, and we barely get any description on the planets or the ecosystems because that’s not the what the narrator is concerned about showing off, unless it’s determining the race’s (or tech’s) gender. He seemed real hung up about ensuring there was some binary construct, or giving detailed explanations well after the item has been introduced. As such, my needs as a science fiction enthusiast did not match up with the narrator’s descriptive capabilities. But I know Bartlett can bring it, he’s shown that through the complex plot structure. I’m going to lean towards the notion that maybe he didn’t think the audience cared about those details as much, or he was true to the persona of Milo Sapphire and intentionally left it out.
If you are someone who gets a little bogged down by grammar concerns, be aware that this text has minor errors throughout it, none of which inherently prevent the context from being understood. (There are ten that I found on the first page of Chapter One, and they are still present in at the least Amazon digital copy of this piece, so I assume the text that I received hasn’t been altered from what could be purchased). Personally, the author writes this conversationally, as if the narrator is speaking directly to the audience, and thus writes heavily with the personality of Milo Sapphire in mind, so I think the errors are an element of helping to display the character’s true persona. Additionally, there is a lot of repetition in what is delivered, but I rationalized it, again, as the personality of the narrator. Finally, the chapters are short, and sometimes things like a conversation gets broken up into multiple chapters, which I assume is for emphasis. For example, one conversation spans eleven pages and four chapters.
Like I said, I had the pervy desk stalkers in mind when I read this, so I’m not surprised that all the women are described based on items like shrugging “her shoulders in frustration making her barely contained breasts jiggle distractingly causing several boyfriends to get slapped by their female companions for so obviously ogling her” (I chose this one because it also displays the grammar that is presented throughout the text). There is only one woman (a female accountant who is only mentioned in one sentence) that isn’t viewed from a very misogynistic lens. Even the avatar of one of the sentient ships is described as “she wasn’t appealing to me as a potential playmate for the evening, unlike the lovely young lady whose view was now blocked by three strangers,” and Milo Sapphire states this comparison twice in adjoining paragraphs. As a female reader, I would define this depiction as concerning. I value representation of women to be a make or break in what I read, so if I’m being honest, if I wasn’t being asked to review this piece, I would have stopped reading after the first chapter. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily bad; more so a recognition that I am not the key demographic for this piece.Although to be fair, the males are viewed descriptively from a similar lens. The only physical description that Sapphire gives of himself is “while I don’t brag about it, I’m generously endowed” and of course that endowment must be used to save a woman from the clutches of a succubus. Women are literally throwing themselves at him at every turn because he’s so powerful (note not handsome, his physical description as far as I could see was never noted. The women are purely attracted to his ability to pump out pheromones and be the baddest dude in the room.)
The main concern I have is when the narrator clearly defined his instance with Nikki as rape, but he rationalizes it as being ok because another woman (a rape survivor herself), his vampire subordinate along with his subordinate, and his AI say it’s the only way to save her. He fully commits to raping (or dominating) Nikki, but to save face (and likely backlash) the woman comes out of her stupor to say, “Please make me yours. Her hold is weakened but it’s still there. Please take me now!” It’s every Incel’s wet dream… and my need to shower to cleanse my soul from the whole experience. Despite that concern, I could see Bartlett trying to walk this fine line that he created, and even with the RED FLAG I addressed, he did his best to dance around it. I haven’t read any of his other works, so it’s hard to say if this is the byproduct of trying to stick within the boundaries presented in the fantasy lore he sets up and the personality of the character, or if it’s just Bartlett trying to live out his fantasies via writing. My gut says it’s the former, because he had plenty of other opportunity to throw in further gratuitous sex scenes, but he didn’t.
Finally, the ending. There isn’t one. It’s a cliffhanger intent on gearing you up for Book 2. Zero closure to any of the issues that were presented, although there was some conversations about the beauty of bureaucracies intentionally delaying some of the conflict. Personally, I don’t mind cliffhangers, assuming there will be a quick release of the next one, but if you don’t like that, maybe wait until the series is over to purchase this book.
Currently, it is $0.99 from Amazon, so you won’t be breaking the bank if you choose to purchase it. I am looking forward to seeing how Book 2 develops, given the wide range of reviews presented on GoodReads.