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Book review: Sovereign's Son

Don’t judge the book by its cheesy cover!

In the old model of publishing that is now dying, it’s tragic to think about how many books never got published. Deserving authors simply couldn’t get the attention of agents and publishers. They weren’t deemed worth the financial risk. In the old model, only so many books could be published, and at least some of them had to have big sales. In the new model of publishing, in which anyone can cheaply self publish, it was inevitable that many authors would release their books into the wild just so that they would be read, not caring whether the book ever made money.

That seems to be the case with Sovereign’s Son, by Brad Dalton, which was released in March 2011 and is available free in many digital formats. To my knowledge, there is no print version of this book. It is available only in digital formats. I got my copy from iTunes. I was intrigued to find a dystopian science fiction novel that was not only free, but also from an author with the same last name as mine. I believe he’s also a Southerner who lives in Virginia. I’ve been making a survey of dystopian novels — old and new — so of course I had to check this one out when I came across it on iTunes. The book is full of typos, as though it was never edited. But I was hooked right from the start, and I kept reading. It was such a hot read that I finished the book in two days.

The story takes place in a world that has been seriously screwed up by war, climate change, nuclear accidents, and a shift in the earth’s poles. Most of the population of the earth has died. And not only that, but aliens from elsewhere in the galaxy have arrived and set up a base in the mountains of California. The story gets off to a ripping good start when a 19-year-old boy is awakened by his mother in the middle of the night and told that he must leave home immediately and run for his life. The plot is beautifully constructed, and we even have strong characterization and character development, often missing in science fiction. The author also reveals himself to be one of those people — like John Twelve Hawks, who I have written about in the past — who is able to see through the fog of distortion and propaganda and grasp the essence of what is really going on in the world today. I believe that is largely what motivates people like Brad Dalton and John Twelve Hawks. They want to wake people up to what is all too likely to happen if we don’t come to our senses, if it’s not too late.

In a strange way, I have to say that I find dystopian novels comforting. This is because I feel less alone and less isolated in rejecting the false picture of the world that is constantly reinforced by the corporate media and all the other water carriers for the elites who hold almost all the power and all the money. It is comforting to know that other people get it and that they are as alarmed as I am about where it all appears to be leading. It’s shocking, though, how our culture can absorb the insights of brilliant writers, and yet nothing changes. The insights of Orwell’s 1984 and his warnings about power and propaganda have been part of our culture for decades, and yet no one calls out Fox News (for example … there are many other forms of propaganda) or sees it for what it is. Tolkien’s warnings about industrialization and the crushing of fragile local cultures by centralization and homogenization likewise are part of our culture. And yet nothing has held back industrialization and centralization.

In any case, the messages contained within a novel are secondary. What matters is that a good novel is a good read. I couldn’t put this one down.

Note to Brad Dalton: If you happen to Google across this, I’d appreciate it if you could drop me an email. I couldn’t find contact information for sending you a note.

Update: I’m glad to have been able to bring some much-deserved attention to this book. A Google search for the title and author now brings up this review as the first listing.

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