Blogger’s Note: I am going to venture a bit from my usual content to provide a review of a new indie book I had the privilege of reading recently. Indie and self-published authors often do not get the recognition they deserve, so I would like to do this more often. I have read many good indie and self-pub books over the last year and am going to start writing reviews every so often. If you are the author of an indie or self-pub book and would like me to review it on my blog, please let me know.
“Life is like licking honey off a thorn.”
To say that is a mild understatement about the world in which Solo now finds himself living would be a mild understatement. The main character in author Mike Kilroy’s new book, “Solo,” finds himself bouncing between two realities in a desperate search for his past.
It’s clear from the very beginning of this book – which finds the title character romancing a mannequin in an abandoned department store – that Solo is not quite right. While readers will identify his quirkiness right from the get-go, it won’t become apparent until later in the book that Solo might be far more than just a little different than everyone else – he might just be a monster.
Solo travels from a post-apocalyptic world known as the After – where roughly 99 percent of the population has disappeared without warning or explanation – to a mental ward in the Before, where he struggles desperately to figure out why he is there and whether he is the kind of monster who simply has forgotten that he is a monster.
While Solo travels between the After and the Before, he doesn’t remember much about his life in the Before. Bits and pieces of memories flood his mind, none of them good. An abusive, drunken father and visions of mutilated animals and violent confrontations with others, fill most of his flashbacks of his life in the Before. There’s also a girl named Lydia who Solo affectionately refers to as Eye Lids. He knows she is important to him and has been a constant in his life – but he can’t remember the exact nature of their relationship. Are they lovers? Friends? Family?
In the After, Solo makes his way through the deserted wasteland with a friend named Tom, a survivalist with a blunt personality who spits out folksy one-liners in an attempt to cope with the post-apocalyptic world in which they find themselves.
As he bounces back and forth between the two realities in a desperate attempt to remember who he is and which reality is real, his world slowly starts to unravel. Solo is left to face the fact that searching for the truth isn’t always the best approach if the truth about who you are is too horrible to comprehend.
I first had the opportunity to read this book when the author made a shorter version of it available online for free. Each week, Kilroy made available a new chapter of the book for readers who had decided to join Solo on his journey. Each week, when I finished the new chapter, I found myself impatient for the next installment to arrive. So when I heard Kilroy was going to expand the book and make it available in print and online, of course I had to have a copy. And I must say that I was not disappointed with the expanded version.
Before I say what it is I really liked about this book, I think it’s important to explain that I am not generally a fan of the science fiction or fantasy genre. I prefer to read mystery and crime novels. However, after stumbling upon the shortened version of this book online, I knew I had to expand my horizons and give it a chance.
My favorite part of this entire book has to be the bizarre plot line. As a writer myself, I often find myself disappointed when I’ve figured out the intended twists and turns of a book long before I ever reach the end of it. I can honestly say that was not a problem with Solo. Just when I thought I had figured it out – BAM! – Kilroy would pull a fast one and totally leave me speechless. I don’t want to give too much away in this review, but trust me when I say that readers will never see the ending coming.
Kilroy also did an excellent job fleshing out his characters. Even though Solo is more than a bit weird, readers can’t help but fall in love with him and will find themselves rooting for him, regardless of whether he ends up being a monster. The other characters we meet along the way – Tom, Mar, Brown Robe Guy and Eye Lids – are equally well developed. Kilroy injects a unique personality – along with some utterly fabulous nicknames – into each and every one of his characters.
There are a lot of flashbacks in this book, not just between the Before and After, but also memory flashbacks Solo has of his past life. It can be a tricky thing to bounce between present and past so frequently within a book, but Kilroy manages to pull it off without leaving readers confused.
I would like to offer up some constructive criticism for this author, but am finding it difficult to do so. If I am honest about it, there is not much about this book that I would have changed had I written it myself. For an indie book, it is both well written and edited. My only disappointment with the book was that it ended too soon. I could have read on and on about these characters for another hundred pages and not found myself tiring of them.
There are a few slightly disturbing scenes in the book that may make it inappropriate for younger readers, so parents will have to be the judge of whether this book is suitable for their young reader. I definitely recommend this book for fans of the science fiction and fantasy genre. I also recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, a well-written plot and characters with plenty of personality. Even if, like me, you are not inclined to read this genre, give Solo a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Check out this author’s other books: The 17 and Nine Meals.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.