Review: Delta by Jonathan Farnham

I recently officially acquired a full time job, and one of the most exciting things about that is having disposable income again. My list of what I’ll spend it on is quite specific: rent, bills, food, clothes, board games, and books.

I’m a simple girl with simple needs.

Luckily, I still have plenty of books to read as I await my official start date for this job and my first paycheck. What’s extra special is that I have a handful of books to read that were written by our very own #TwitchWriters community! Now I just need to build my review habit and prowess so I can give back the way the Twitch Writers have given to me. So here we go. My first review of a Twitch Writers novel!

Review

Title: Delta (2014)

Author: Jonathan Farnham

Genre: Science Fiction

Stars: 3/5

Delta is a sci-fi adventure that mixes in tropes of superheroes and rites of passage. There are areas where it doesn’t hit the mark in both storytelling and technical writing, and there are also elements that spark those “feel good” moments that fuel your righteous justice and make you root for the underdogs to succeed.

In Delta, we meet Jake Styes, an 18 year old with just one week left of high school when he faces a terrible accident that leaves him in a coma. He wakes up with the superhuman power to control electricity. He’s whisked away to M.I.S.T. to learn more about these abilities and join a team of super-powered people to defend the world from organized crime.

The book feels like it would benefit from another good pass with its editor to ensure the story line, character development, and pacing build more smoothly. I have a lot of questions as to why the events took place as they did and why characters said things they said that couldn’t all be written off as “these are young people who are imperfect”. On the other hand, you get the perspective of young people facing enormous responsibilities and challenges and how they handle these struggles–including death. These are heroes in a world where the criminals aren’t monsters in a physical sense, but a human vice sense. The kids are smart enough to ask questions about what’s around them, while naive enough to have faith that could save humanity.

The characters are no less than 17 years old and upwards of beyond adolescent, but most of them act less mature than their ages suggest. There are some inconsistencies in character behavior after narration would dictate a character feels one way (for example, Boomer’s jealousy of Jake only seems to come up when it’s appropriate for a boost in conflict) and then it peters off or changes. I think this ties to how Jake himself feels more like a stand in for the reader, used to ask sudden questions and give us more information about Team Delta and about characters we otherwise wouldn’t meet such as Maggie or Kick-Back. Funnily enough, on the other hand, there are instances where narration reveals character feelings that are then immediately shared in dialogue leading to some redundancy.

Cleaning these up gives the author more room for building up the relationships we are introduced to only briefly like Jake’s mother, Boomer’s sibling, Thea’s parents, and Grease’s father. My favorite potential here are the romance subplots between what seems like an adorable little harem Jake could have been building with all the girls flirting with him. I’m not surprised by this. Jake is young at 18, probably relatively attractive with no grotesque features mentioned by the author, and has a notably strong superpower. But Jake proves to be inexperienced in courtship and loses the chance to further flirt with the supermodel-turned-hero Glacier. Sorry, Jake!

The pacing feels episodic with some events that didn’t seem to lend to the main conflict revealed later on. The expository opening scene gives us a lot about Cruiser City, which is important throughout, and the scene itself just needs adjustment from info dumping as a classroom lecture. There’s a bullying arc, a panic attack arc (where some of the earlier mentioned inconsistencies are–Jake goes through a tremendously stressful day and then claims via inner thoughts to have nothing stressing him), glimpses at romance, and a possible security threat within M.I.S.T. itself. All of these have big potential when superheroes are involved, but the story glosses over these, with or without clear resolution. Unfortunately, because of that, I couldn’t connect as strongly as I wanted to with the characters when they inevitably meet danger. If the story’s final conflict were woven into the arcs more fluidly, or the arcs themselves made more consistent, the reader would get a bigger payoff when things pick up rapidly towards the end.

The book, and the series at large, has a lot of potential with the world building done and with the cliffhanger on which we’re left dangling. I hope future books in the Cruiser City series can address and patch up the issues from Delta and continue into a strong arc of young heroes learning their place in a dangerous world.

(Most of all, I hope Jake learns a little game and gets another chance with supermodel Glacier. The fastest way to a girl’s heart is apparently with homemade fruit smoothies!)