You can also see this post on my website about sci-fi by women and non-binary authors. You’ll find some posts there that aren’t available on Medium. If you are interested in sci-fi, check it out!
Sinai Unhinged is a cross-genre novel that blends sci-fi with suspense / thriller. Experiments go wrong in a particle accelerator research facility, driving scientists mad. Trying to help her friend who has fallen victim to the mysterious Complex, a therapist attempts to uncover what’s going on there and gets pulled into a strange and dangerous conflict of interests.
The author manages to maintain dark atmosphere of tension and looming danger throughout the novel. The foreboding is almost palpable at times, and there are quite a few action scenes that spike these emotions.
The book is mostly well-written, but there were enough sentences that broke my reading flow because they contained typos, unnecessary repetitions or seemed a bit clumsy. For instance, “The machine shows everything, all of the nothing we’ve over made and over” or the word “eye” repeated 3 times in 2 sentences next to each other. There are not so many of those to ruin the book, but not so few to ignore, and they create an impression of amateurish writing.
I also did not care about the characters. Halfway through the book they still felt like strangers to me, and I didn’t like any of them, even the protagonist. That made me lose interest in the book and just skim through some parts. It is, of course, subjective, but I need well-developed characters that I can root for to enjoy the book and be invested in the plot.
Evil characters seem to be evil just for the sake of it, we never find out their motives, there are no grey areas to consider. There is a psychopathic character whose chapters made my skin crawl, but that is actually the author’s success. And then there is a character who seems good in the beginning, but loses it and tortures his wife, trying to “protect her”. There is no logic in his behavior whatsoever, it’s never explained how what he was doing to her could protect her from the things that he thought would happen. I believe it would be better if his actions made some sense, even if he was the only one seeing it and no one else understood him. As it was, it seemed like meaningless violence for the sake of a dramatic effect. The rest of the characters are just… neutral? There is not much to say about them, especially the ones that are meant to be “good”.
The ending, however, restored my interest in the book. It was the part that I enjoyed most (probably the last 50 pages or so). The characters came alive and seemed to become more complex and interesting. The action was exciting. Alex and Valerie’s investigation into the research of Alex’s father was intriguing. It seemed like everything would finally fall into place, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Many questions remained unanswered, and the book lacked a sense of completeness.
Who was the Voice — one of the main villains — and what was his plan for the Complex? Why did he need control over it? What exactly did Alex’s father discover and how? Why did he behave the way he did when he was still alive? What exactly happened during the accident in the Complex that involved Holden’s wife? All of these things seemed significant throughout the novel, but they remained hazy.
The final chapter is beautiful and hopeful, exploring human connection and friendship, and the quote from Einstein’s letter to his father is deep and moving.
I am uneasy about the fact that in the end, the character who abused his wife is back together with her as if nothing has happened. At least a conversation between them could help make sense of it.
I believe I would enjoy the book more if it had less meaningless violence and more investigative action, more insight into the research of Alex’s father and maybe his life that, together with other revelations from the Complex, would slowly lead us to understanding what was going on. I would also appreciate more complex characters whose motives I could comprehend. And we only find out in the very end how the accidents in the Complex influenced the scientists who went mad. To me personally, getting that insight earlier would help sympathize with what the characters were going through and connect with them more.
You might enjoy the book if you like action-based thrillers with tense atmosphere and don’t care about character development or loose ends too much. It’s available on Amazon.
Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s ‘A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME’, Gary Zukav’s ‘THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS’, and any ancient spiritual or religious text she could find, Joanna Evans became fascinated with particle physics, the purpose of life and the need for a story that illustrated how intertwined we all really are. Eventually, her craving for an action-adventure set inside a place like CERN led to the creation of Sinai Unhinged.
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