I was supposed to post this a few days ago, but as ever, life intermitted.
As a born procrastinator, I planned to read the book the day before I was supposed to post a review: see, I had a free day after a lot of work (because I worked in the weekend, I had a day free during the week)… well, that was a good plan. Until the window of my car broke (I mean wasn’t literally broken, as broken glass, but it didn’t function anymore.). Basically, I could yet pull it down…but it never went close again.
And it RAINED.
A lot since a couple of days.
So, instead of reading, I spent my free day trying to fix this tiny little problem as soon as possible.
Reading a bit postponed, I guess.
Anyways, car is half-repaired right now (window is up, though I dare not to pull it down until a new switch arrives and it will be fully repaired), and I finally read the book, so here’s my review – with other fun stuff thanks to the book tour.
About the Book
Author Tracy Richardson Encourages Readers to be Catalysts for Change
“All the times I went stargazing with my dad I wondered about the stars and galaxies we saw. I felt a certainty that life existed elsewhere in the Universe. I never once imagined I would meet that life, though.” – page 151
About the Author
TRACY RICHARDSON wasn’t always a writer, but she was always a reader. Her favorite book growing up was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. In a weird way that book has even shapedher life through odd synchronicities. She has a degree in biology like Mrs. Murry, and, without realizing it, she named her children Alex and Katie after Meg’s parents.Tracy uses her science background in her writing through her emphasis on environmental issues, metaphysics, and science fiction. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her doing any number of creative activities — painting furniture, knitting sweaters, orcooking something. She lives in Indianapolis, and, in case you’re wondering, yes, she’s been to the Indianapolis 500.
“Maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for: a mission and a purpose, connecting with the collective consciousness. I feel a little like I’m stepping off a cliff into the unknown, but if I don’t move forward, I know I’ll regret it.” – page 35
I never would’ve hear about this book, if it wasn’t for the wonderful The WriteReads community, and this current blog tour. I thought I’d participate, because I found this concept very interesting, and I wanted to see how it would play out.
I have to admit that I have quite mixed feelings about this novel.
Before I say anything, I have to state something: I know what it’s all about, I totally get the message, and I am all for it!
I’m not sure, though, that it was well-executed enough to really communicate that message.
It wasn’t at all bad! It wasn’t. I fairly enjoyed it, and I’d be definitely up for more.
In fact, that’s it. I’d BE up for more. Honestly, I also would’ve been.
See, I find this whole concept a wonderful idea: the paranormal mixed with science fiction, parts of modern science explaining unbelievable forces, that have been always existing (unbeknownst to us), using this knowledge and the power of our positive thinking to repair poor ol’ Earth who suffers because of our misbehavior. A little bit of, but not too much romance on the side. It sounds perfect, right?
The problem is, in fact this is a very difficult area in writing, having all of this together, balancing everything out, having a little bit of everything, yet not too much… making it complex enough to be believable, but simple enough to understand. And all the while keeping the emotions real, as well. Believe me, as someone who’ve tried my hand at writing in my life (though I only wrote for my drawer), I know how difficult that is.
I do have to say that it wasn’t all completely covered in this book, though.
As I said, this story has very much potential, and I still hope that in the upcoming volume(s?) it will make up for what was lost a bit here, but in case of this particular book, it hasn’t lived up to it.
I felt like it was too much, too many different things and views forced together that would’ve been supposed to make up a homogenous worldview. In parts, I think I could’ve accept any of them as “real” for the story, but having everything together, and always something new, something in my head completely different getting thrown at me, my brain simply refused to buy any of it.
At the beginning I though it was going more in a spiritual direction, with all the spirits and ancient history, then at some point I thought ‘wait is it fantasy or science fiction then?‘, and when I thought I was finally about to figure it out, there came a very weird hint at big religions, and there I was lost. It simply wasn’t coherent enough.
I do think, though, that with a little more world-building it would all have worked good together. I can imagine how in the author’s head all this do add up to a full and logical world. It didn’t come off the pages, though.
My other problem is that the characters seem to accept every veeery-out-there thing happening, or – especially – being told to them way too easily. They express a little hesitation, but mostly only with words. And this hesitation is almost always towards their own roles in it, and not the fact itself that something like that exists. It’s so not realistic! They seem like cardboard figures because of that, even though they have – such as the story itself – way more potential in them. The low point was when they told everything to Marcie’s mom: she did say out lout that she had her doubts, but she already seemed like she half-accepted that the kids told the truth. Come on, if a couple of teenagers told me THAT story, and I could see that they all do believe their story is real, my first thought would be that the grad students gave them some kind of drugs, not honestly considering that they did brought the kids to a f*cking spaceship full of extraterrestrials!
The only person who reacted relatively normal was Leo. To be honest, he was the only character who seemed at least a bit real. And I say that with a little regret, because I actually liked the characters, pretty much all of them, and I would’ve so loved to see more of them, to see them more as people. That’s also how I feel about Leo and Marcie’s pairing. I wanted them to be together all along, yet somehow I felt the whole time that something was missing. Their relationship didn’t feel real, as well. It took me a little while to realize that though they did have chemistry, they didn’t have one real interaction in the whole book. They never really say more than what Marcie’s already thought through, they never talk about anything else that’s currently happening. The way they seem to be like as individuals, I do think that it’s right to make them a couple, but according to what actually happens with the two of them, it’s barely possible to see a real connection between them on the personal level, beyond the physical attraction – and that makes their reactions to each other a bit inadequate. Which is a shame, because I liked the idea of them together.
All in all, I should say that I did like this book, but it didn’t live up to its true potential. I pretty much liked every aspect of it, but it was never enough to totally suck me in, and there’s a depth that I was expecting to find the whole time that somehow never arrived.
It IS a good book – but with about twice the length, with twice as much world-building and character (and relationship)-development it could’ve been great.
Let’s Give It A Grade!
- Story: 3/5
- Characters: 3/5
- Style: 3/5
- The Subjective Factor: 3/5
- GPA: 3
The idea itself is pretty original, I’d say. Though not very well executed here, I’d love to see more of it – I have a feeling that with more understanding of the whole thing, and a bit less in a rush, I would like this weird world that exists in this story.
If you’re into weird science fiction, or esotericism for the matter, and you’re good at suspending belief, this is your book!
Water, maybe with lemonjuice (no sugar!)
Something by Pink Floyd, probably.
It’s also kind of the past, but I got The Field from the author for the purpose of this tour, which is kind of a prequel to this novel. They’re not a real series, I mean, they can be read as standalones, but they are connected and there are recurring characters. I didn’t have time to read both (as you see above, I barely had time to read this one), but I kind of regret it, and I want to give the other book a chance, too. I actually saw even better reviews for it that for this one! I also read that there’s already a third book in the making, and – even if it’s not clear after all the things I’ve wrote above – I can’t wait to read that one! I really hope that it can make up for some things that wasn’t elaborated in Catalyst.
“The closer I get to the top, the brighter the crystal glows, and the stronger I sense its electrical current. The Native spirits whisper encouragement to me as I climb, giving me the confidence that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” – page 229
And now let’s see what the author has to say about the book…!
Q & A with Tracy Richardson
1. In what ways does Catalyst differ from The Field, and how is it similar?
Catalyst and The Field are both science fiction novels with environmental themes. The Field’’s science fiction focus is on actual science that is currently being researched and written about– The Universal Energy Field or the Zero Point Field. Its environmental theme is softer – introducing readers to the possibility of access to an endless supply of energy and comparing it to so-called clean coal and other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. There is a metaphysical bent to The Field as well. Eric is able to access the Collective Consciousness with his thoughts – another thing that has been researched and written about.The science fiction elements in Catalyst are more supernatural and traditional sci-fi – that’s all I can say without spoilers! The environmental focus is reality based as it highlights the dangers of fracking and all of the other destructive activities humans do that cause climate change. In Catalyst I am stepping out strongly as an environmentalist and the characters take a more active role in fighting climate change. The books are companion books. Many of the same characters appear, but Catalyst is not a sequel to The Field and can be read as a stand-alone.
2. Environmental issues are a major theme in your work. How would you describe the current state of our nation’s relationship to these issues?
As with many things in our country, I believe there are essentially three camps on the issue of the environment. Those who are justifiably extremely concerned and who care deeply about what is happening, those who deny that anything is happening negatively to the environment at all, and those who are totally unengaged for a variety of reasons. There are so many people who are raising the alarm. Young people are especially engaged. Scientists have been warning us about the dangers of climate change for years. Then there are those people, often our leaders or leaders of industry, who are fighting for the status quo in the name of profit and power. I don’t think we can reach those people.But the people who are not engaged because they are uniformed or just trying to get through the day and make ends meet are the ones we can reach. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they don’t know what to do. I was at a big super-sized grocery store near where I live in Indianapolis recently. EVERYONE was getting their groceries in plastic bags. They didn’t even have paper bags available and no one, except me, brought their own re-useable bags. It seems like a small thing, but if we all stopped using plastic bags it would have a huge impact. The Midwest is usually behind the coasts on this sort of thing. Recycling was mandatory when I lived in New York over 20 years ago. In the suburban neighborhood where I lived outside of Indianapolis for a number of years one of my neighbors refused to pay the $3 per month to recycle because he didn’t want someone ‘making money’ off of his trash. So short-sited. But recycling is not the answer. We need to reduce and eliminate the trash we generate. I’m sure you can tell I’m a bit passionate about this!I feel like the tide is turning toward action on addressing environmental issues. We have so little time.
3. What sets Catalyst apart from other science fiction novels?
Catalyst is not about space exploration and space wars. It’s about how we’re not alone in the universe and how we’re probably not even be the most advanced species in the galaxy. It’s based in present time Earth dealing with the real issues we face while also exploring the possibilities of what and who might be out ‘there’ and what our relationship with them can be. It also explores our evolution as a species. What’s next for humanity if we can move forward and past our fear and hatred into love and compassion.
4. How does your degree in biology influence the story of Catalyst?
I have always loved science. To me there’s a magic and beauty to the world around us that science helps explain. My science background helps me to see how we are all connected by an elegant design. Science and spirituality are not contradictory. It doesn’t matter what your concept of God or a higher presence is. I think science proves its existence. My background in science also helps me to understand some of the more complex concepts and break them down for my readers to weave them into a story. It’s given me a curiosity to always wonder ‘why’ and understand that for all we think we know, there is vastly more that we don’t know. Science is a discipline. Researchers test their hypothesis again and again and revise their discoveries. It is not an opinion. It is based on the facts as we currently know them. To say that climate change isn’t real is to deny these facts.
5. The novel unfolds in Indiana, your current place of residence. What are some of your favorite characteristics of your home state, and have you incorporated any real or local aspects into your writing?
The Midwest is a beautiful, but underappreciated, part of the country. Indiana has many different areas of topography. In The Field, Renee, who is from France, comments on the subtle beauty of Indiana, the glorious over-arching sky, the undulating corn fields and picturesque farmland. In Catalyst, southern Indiana features more prominently with its rolling hills and state and national parks. I’ve taken creative license with my locations in the state, so I’m not representing actual places, more a melding of real places into someplace else entirely. However, I did visit Angel Mounds historic site near Evansville along the Ohio River and incorporated it into Catalyst. I also visited Cahokia mound in southern Illinois and an archaeological site near St. Louis called Emerald Mound and morphed all three indigenous sites together for the dig site in Catalyst. Greystone mountain is based on a hill in Brown County State Park that has the stone monoliths described in Catalyst. The wind farm that Eric and Renee visit in The Field is based on the actual wind farm located along I65 midway between Indianapolis and Chicago. While I create a lot in my imagination, a lot of real people and places do make it into my books!
6. What impact would you like Catalyst to have on readers?
I would love it if readers would see that the Earth is our one and only home and that we have a responsibility to take care of her. To recognize that we are all connected and that what happens on the other side of the world can impact them and is affected by the things they do. To understand that what they do matters and that they can have an impact. We can make the world a better place. We don’t have to go with the status quo. Each and every one of us can be a catalyst for positive change.
7. What was your inspiration for including alternate dimensions in the book?
As part of my science geekiness, I am fascinated by the idea scientists propose that there are multiple universes out there. It’s hard enough to conceptualize the immensity of one universe let alone the idea that there could be an infinite number of additional universes!! I also believe that we are here on Earth to grow and learn and develop both as individuals and as a species. The idea that there are other dimensions within this universe where we can advance in the process of our personal development is intriguing as well. What’s the next stage of human development? Telepathy? Telekinesis? Instant manifestation? Who can say?
8. You’ve mentioned Madeleine L’Engle as one of your largest literary influences. How have her stories shaped your writing?
In some ways her novels helped inform my theology. She also studied the writings of physicists when writing A Wrinkle in Time and the other books in the Time Quintet series. In A Wind in the Door her characters travel inside the human body to help heal Charles Wallace’s mitochondria who have a consciousness of their own separate from him and are making him sick. That concept also brings to mind Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who where there is a whole civilization of Who’s living on a dust spec resting on a dandelion. I LOVE exploring the idea that there is far more to the universe than we can possibly know. In A Ring of Endless Light the main character is dealing with the illness of her beloved grandfather and her connection with him, her family, her boyfriend and the dolphins that her boyfriend is studying. Ms. L’Engle recognized that we are all connected, and that intelligence and consciousness are not limited to humans. These are the ideas I want to portray in my novels, too. I wish that I could have talked with her before she died.
9. What is one small thing that you believe anyone could start to do today that would help the earth?
This is difficult to answer as I think it’s past the time when we can simply do one small thing. The most important thing we can do is speak up. Speak truth to power. Show up at marches. Support candidates who support the environment. Demand change.The biggest cause of climate change is carbon emissions, so reducing our carbon footprint is important, but I think one small thing we can each do that would have a huge impact is reducing our use of plastic. Plastic shopping bags, straws, plastic cups and take out containers, plastic food storage bags, product wrappers, etc. all end up in landfills and the oceans and don’t degrade for thousands of years, if ever. There are enormous islands of plastic trash floating in our oceans. Reducing our use of plastic is critical. Simply using a reusable cloth shopping bag and buying some reusable camping straws (or not using straws at all) is a small thing that would have a big impact. Of course, there are dozens of other things we can do, but not enough space to list them all!
10. What can readers expect in the third installment of the series?
I’ve just started writing the next novel. It’s a true sequel to Catalyst and is from both Eric and Marcie’s point of view. Eric and Renee are in France with her physicist father and are being persecuted by people who don’t want his research into the Universal Energy Field to be made public and available to everyone.Marcie is in Washington, D.C. with Leo on an internship with an environmental group. They are all moving into the space of being true catalysts for change. That’s all I’m going to say except that I see a research trip to France in my future!
It’s all a very interesting concept, isn’t it? What do you think? Have you read the book, or are you planning on doing it?
It IS a pretty interesting idea, so I’d recommend to once read it even if you’re not that much into the writing itself, and I do hope the sequel will be awesome, and we see more of the characters acting in real life!