Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Discovery of Socket Greeny (Tony Bertauski)

Overall: 4.1
  • Plot: 4/5
  • Originality: 5/5
  • Language: 2.3/5
  • Believability: 5/5
The Discovery of Socket Greeny by Tony Bertauski

Work has always come first for 16-year old Socket Greeny's mother, especially since his father died. But when she shows him the inner workings of the Paladin Agency, he discovers why it's so important. It's an underground world of technological wonder including bat-like grimmets, spherical servy-mechs and humanoid butlers with brightly lit faceplates. They traverse the planet through wormholes to keep the world safe, but from what, they won't say. Although his mother is not actually a Paladin, and neither was his father, both have worked for them for most their lives.

Socket, however, is different than his parents. He somehow is a Paladin and soon finds himself in the center of controversy and betrayal when he's anointed the agency's prodigy. He didn't ask for the "blessing" of psychic powers and the ability to timeslice and he doesn't want to be responsible for the world. He just wants to go home and back to school and be normal again. But, sometimes, life doesn't give us that privilege, his mother tells him. And when the world is soon threatened and the Paladins are forced into the public eye, Socket discovers what his mother means. If he doesn't embrace his true nature, life as we know it will change forever.
Genre: Science Fiction
Purchase Links:
Kindle US | UK | DE
Paperback US | UK | DE
Other Links:
author website

There is much to be said about the imagination when it comes to entertaining a younger set. Mundane things become fascinating, and the impossible becomes completely normal. In The Discovery of Socket Greeny, we are introduced to an example of the latter approach, one that is riveting in its own right.

The story begins with an introduction to a concept known as virtual mode in a scene that makes me think of commercials for World of Warcraft. At first, it seems like a virtual reality version of the present day video game, but its possibilities are enumerated slowly over time, some more ominous than others. Beyond this, we discover a superior subset of the human species: the Paladins. Their technological advances, as well as their natural abilities, equip them to protect humankind at large from predation, natural disasters, and even themselves.

All of the unfolding events are seen through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old named Socket Greeny. Bertauski does a laudable job in exploring the adolescent psyche, showing his main character as a boy who is snarky, jaded, yet self-sufficient, who struggles with abandonment issues and hides vulnerability with sarcasm. Ultimately, however, he is guided by a strong moral compass that is as rooted in emotion as it is in thought. Sound familiar? It should – most of us have displayed aspects of these traits at one time or another. The duality of his personality is echoed in his mother and his literary foil, Broak. Both are initially rendered in grayscale, but over time, the author starts to color in the different parts that make them who they are. The naturalness of these revelations enrich the reading experience without making us feel like he is trying too hard.

The story itself is slow at first, and the first few pages very nearly lost my attention completely – the kiss of death for many a novel. Some of the futuristic terms were difficult to understand the first time around, thus adding to the disinterest. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when the next few chapters picked up the pace, creating a vacuum from which I am still trying to resurface. The tale is spellbinding, with a plot that is complex enough to please older readers yet understandable enough to appeal to a younger set. Socket’s attitude had me chuckling to myself many times, while his frustrations with the actions of those around him often mirrored my own—or was I imitating him? At some point, the distinction started to grow hazy, and by the end of the story, its existence was obliterated.

Part of the authenticity of the story comes from the simplistic way in which it is told. Some of the sentences are overflowing with information, while others are short and clipped, imitating the thought patterns of someone who is still relatively young. While I applaud the author’s ability to make us believe in his hero’s age, I often found myself tripping over one sentence or another. Subjects would shift partway through, tenses would change inappropriately, or verbs were used where gerunds would have been appropriate. Sometimes, all three flaws were present, leading to a jarring disharmony that only a fascinating plot could overcome. Thankfully, there was one present.

The Discovery of Socket Greeny is a book that both adult and children can enjoy. I am bumping it from middle grade to young adult, however, due to Socket’s favoring of profanity in the first few chapters of the story. Believable vocabulary words for a fifteen-year-old protagonist? Certainly. Appropriate language for a children’s book? Maybe not, though parents should decide for themselves where they would like to draw the line.


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