For more information, visit the official Elixir website
Elixir by Ted Galdi is a YA sci-fi/techno thriller. Now, I need to be forthright. I'm probably not the best person to review YA titles. I'm a crusty curmudgeon of 60 and for the last several years have been practicing my "get off my lawn" mantra in the event I ever live in a place where a child might actually wander over onto my grass. I've also been slowly adding to my collection of vintage metamucil and realizing I can answer the hard questions on Jeopardy five minutes after they've been asked. (A case of game show l'esprit de l'escalier syndrome.)
That said, let me sip a bit from my cup of prune juice before setting it down and getting to work. Elixir falls into that category of yarn that I call a "Super Kid" (SK) book. We've all read and enjoyed some of them. Perhaps the best known SK books ever written are the Harry Potter series, where the Super Kid's super ability is magic, but there have been many others. Steven King's Charlie from Firestarter, where the heroine is able to perform exactly what the title says. Katniss from The Hunger Games, who's a distaff version of Green Arrow but not as well fed. One of my personal SK favorites was teleporting Davy from Jumper (though they spoiled him for me when they cast Young Darth Vader for the lead role in the movie adaptation).
Both SK and YA techno thrillers typically incorporate the following dramatic elements. These are:
Now, having rambled on in typical old-man fashion, let's take a look at Elixir's plot.
The story revolves around Super Kid Sean Malone. Sean's super power is being very smart indeed. At 11, he's a Jeopardy champion and at 14, takes a whack at solving the famous traveling salesman problem (TSP). In its simplest form, TSP exercises attempt to calculate the shortest possible route between cities wherein each city is visited once with the trip ending with a return to the original location. Companies such as D-Wave are building quantum computers to optimize ways to crunch through this class of calculations. Sean figures it out in an afternoon. That's smart.
His discovery draws the attention of the evil head of the Department of Defense, and through a series of mistakes and misunderstandings, Sean is forced to enter the FBI's witness protection program (presumably, the DOD and the Mafia are on equal footing in the eyes of the bureau). Sean, along with his guardian aunt, are whisked off to Italy to hide out. The aunt marries a hot Italian guy who likes to cook and doesn't cheat. Sean, now renamed James, becomes a renowned graffiti artist (the type of low-key trade people on the lam from evil government henchmen typically adopt).
At eighteen, Sean meets the beautiful child-woman Natasha Vonlanden and the two fall deeply in love. Natasha, unfortunately, is dragooned into going on safari with her clueless father. While gazing at giraffes or lions or whatever, she brushes up against a dead chimp?! and contracts ebola. Back in Italy, the disease takes hold and Natasha will die unless Sean can devise a cure. To do this, Sean will need to hack into the servers of an evil pharma company, figure out how to develop an ebola vacine, fly back to the US where the live-saving serum can be manufactured, avoid the clutches of an evil henchman, and return to Europe in time to save his girlfriend. He's got about four days to accomplish all this, if I've tracked the book's timeline correctly. The clock is ticking. (Better hope the airlines are up to snuff. The last time I flew to Basel, I missed my connecting flights on both sides of the trip.)
OK, I think we can stop with the plot synopsis at this point. As is already apparent, Elixir isn't an exemplar of tight, coherent plotting, but in YA, that's not entirely necessary. Five minutes with Divergent makes that clear. Heck, now that I ponder the issue, it isn't always necessary in bigger, non-YA fantasy novels either. Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is twelve hundred pages, sold over a million copies, and doesn't really have a plot, so we can all cut the author some slack. Still, Elixir's action framework clanks, rattles and clunks a bit too much for my taste. For his next book, more time with a plot doctor is called for.
Where Elixir hits the mark is Galdi's ability to write taut, visceral prose that makes you feel the story. For example:
"He sits on the the ledge of a fountain, marble angel in the center spouting water from its hand, a droplet jumping up and grazing the back of his neck every now and then."
And this description of the last rites being administered to the dying Natasha:
"His body heat fogs the plastic shield in front his face, the girl hazier through it now. He removes the cork from the oil receptable and dribbles some on his rubber gloved thumb. He spreads it on her brow, the liquid cold, goose bumps running down her neck."
This is good stuff. As I read these passages, I could feel the cool water on my back and the clammy gasp of the enviro suit as the priest looked down on his dying recipient. Couple that with the breakneck pace of the narrative and at its best, Elixir achieves a breathless, edge of your seat, Crank-the-movie feel.
To sum up, for YAs between 12 and the late teens, a fun ride. For us old geezers who fuss about plot and continuity, the book has less appeal. Let's see how Ted handles that criticism in his next book.
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Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
I'll take a look at YA, but I'm not the best fit to that audience. PDF, Mobi, print all fine. If you have an author website you wish me to link to, please provide the URL. I don't charge and I also don't guarantee a good review!
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