by Glenn Cooper
I had mixed feelings about this story. I had read another of the author's books and enjoyed it, but I got caught up in this one very quickly, partly because the Physics involved in a hadron collider scenario had me drooling. The author clearly knows enough about the subject to make it realistic.
Another thing I liked about the story is that the primary characters, John and Emily, are grown-ups, 46 and 37 years old. The reading world is glutted with teenage and 20-something protagonists and though I'm not all that old myself, I prefer stories with a certain level of maturity.
I also liked the way the author introduced diversity in the form of Trevor, an important character of Jamaican descent, but born and raised American. It's all written in a way that fits neatly into the story.
The characters are well-defined. John and Emily are both likeable but human, and John's ex, Darlene, is someone you just have to hate. She's a real manipulator with her brains in her crotch.
The story starts out in a self-defence class, which makes for some good foreshadowing for things that happen later.
How can I explain about Down without giving away too much? You find out about it in the early chapters, but that discovery is an important part of the journey. Let's just say that it's a place and the people who come from there aren't necessarily the nicest people you'll meet.
The alternate world has its own rules and denizens and much of the story will involve learning about what feels like Alice in Wonderland on a bad acid trip. It is not a friendly place.
The story allows the reader to learn a lot of history through cameo appearances of significant people from the past, but I actually think this was over done to the extent that throwing in a known Nazi was predictable. The instruction for building makeshift weapons was very thorough and knowledgeable, but I felt that the sequences in Down read very, very slow.
Probably the most likable character in the book was Duck. He's just a displaced peasant, but he has a kind of innocent charm that made me want to see him come out of things okay.
The one thing that blew this one for me was the ending, or rather non-ending. Just at a point when everything seems to be wrapped up neatly, a new crisis hits you and you have to buy the next book to see what happens. This is a pet peeve of mine. Yes I knew it was to be a trilogy, but I can think of many continuing series that while they might leave questions of ongoing situations open for a next volume, they at least wrap up the story for that episode. Also, a random factor on the Physics for this new crisis stretched believability. I like this author's writing but I'll be looking for stand alone stories from him in future.