Book Review: Awakenings by Edward Lazellari

Hey there!

Urban fantasy is one of my guilty pleasures these days. In a time where the modern world is full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, it’s nice to believe, even just for a brief moment, that there’s a little more magic in the world and anything is truly possible. It doesn’t hurt that there have been some great new urban fantasy stories to read lately, such as Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver.

In Awakenings, author Edward Lazellari introduces us to an unlikely group of heroes in a multiverse where a little magic still exists here on Earth. Cal MacDonnell, Seth Ramcrest, and Daniel Hauer live lives very different from one another. One is a cop. One is a photographer/pornographer. And one is a 14-year-old student. But one thing connects them all. Thirteen years ago they seemed to just wink into existence. None of them remembers anything before that night that haunts their dreams.

Now, thirteen years later, events are conspiring against them. Cal finds himself on patrol with his partner when they encounter a giant with a sword. Seth meets an unusual lady who leads him away from his apartment shortly before it explodes in a fireball. And Daniel can’t seem to get through a single day without incurring the wrath of his principal, his step-father, or bullies at his school.

Awakenings is the first book in a series and Lazellari’s fantasy debut. It mixes actual multidimensional theory (M-theory, an outgrowth of string theory in physics) and the idea of multiple universes separated by thin membranes with a story that interlinks the lives of people in two separate worlds for quite an intriguing setting. Obviously not all the secrets of the series are revealed in the first book, but I’m curious to see where Lazellari is taking things.

My only beef with the book is the fact that the ending defies fantasy series convention a bit. Usually each book in a series will take a few of the overall story threads and keep a few going from book to book but resolve a few in each book. This leaves you wanting to know more but satisfied that least a few things have been wrapped up. Lazellari ends Awakenings more like the season finale to a TV show where you’re left hanging until the next season starts back up. Regardless of whether it was intentional or accidental, I’m now on the hook to read the next book in the series.

That said, the writing itself is excellent. Early in the book he describes the lack of sensation as a character gets her head chopped off:

“She heard a creak behind her. Before she could turn, there was a swish, like the sound of a switch whipped through the air. Then silence. Not a drop of rain, not a squeak; someone had pulled the plug on the whole world…”

I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of a multiverse based on String theory where on the other side of one of the membranes from Earth is a world of magic locked in a medieval struggle. And the Odd Couple-vibe of Cal and Seth working together just adds to the intrigue.

Check out Awakenings on bookstore shelves today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: The Universe: The Complete Season Three

Hi there!

Somehow, I managed to miss all of the episodes of The Universe when they aired on the History Channel initially. So when I sat down to watch the 12 episodes on The Universe: The Complete Season Three DVD collection, I found my inner “space geek” like I was as a child.

The Universe focuses on the sciences pertaining to our knowledge and understanding of the universe. This includes everything from traveling at light speed to distant galaxies and the potential of a “multiverse” of parallel universes to the possibility of planetary devastation due to an asteroid or comet strike and the many possible shapes and purposes of life on other worlds. Watching with my family, we were glued to the screen for each and every episode, learning from of the greatest minds in the space sciences.

Each episode uses a combination of interviews, narration, and computer imagery and animation to explain a topic, providing an incredible glimpse into the probable and the possible in terms of manned or robotic space exploration, theoretical physics, and the profound beauty, complexity, and simplicity of the stars.

Among the episodes I found the most interesting were “Parallel Universes” and “Alien Faces.”

“Parallel Universes” touches upon the prevailing theories of multiple universes. One theory is that the universe is simply so huge that there must be a duplicate of our own solar system somewhere else, right down to the individuals on planet earth. Another theory is that other universes exist in the same physical location as ours, but in different dimensions. (This was a theory recently explored on the TV series Fringe on FOX this past year.) And then there’s a theory that all of these other universes exist in a “multiverse” of possibilities.

In “Alien Faces” we go on a fictional safari into deep space in the future where we’ve discovered planets capable of sustaining life like we’ve never seen before. From artificial robot-like species to animals and plants adapted to high-gravity or water worlds, artists and scientists created an amazing array of computer animation to show us some imaginative and amazing creatures in these alien habitats. Among our favorites were the insect who started its life in the water, built a cocoon under water and then uses a balloon to rise to the surface and drift to dry land elsewhere.

But not all episodes flowed as well for me from beginning to end.

For example, “Sex in Space” is a sensational headline to get you to watch an episode about reproduction in space and space tourism. The content of the episode for the most part was great, discussing the difficulties that reproductive systems that have developed in an environment with gravity would face entering a microgravity environment. And the discussion of space tourism and a planned space cruise ship was interesting, since it focused on the commercial space race instead of government-sponsored space travel. But couldn’t they have come up with a better title?

Overall, I think The Universe is an amazing series for space junkies like myself. It’s great to once again become swept up in the enthusiasm and optimism of human travel in space and our ever-expanding knowledge of the universe around us. If you’re interested in any of the space sciences, I’d encourage you to pick up The Universe: The Complete Season Three to learn some of the current thinking about space travel and beyond!

–Fitz

p.s. Click on the images below to pick up your own copy of The Universe on DVD at Amazon:

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