I was recently given a pre-pub e-copy of This Changes Everything (Volume 1 of The Spanners Series) by Sally Ember, Ed. D., in exchange for an honest review.
What if the world as we know it isn’t exactly as we’d always believed? What if we’re not the only sentient beings in the universe? What if the universe were not “only” a universe, but a “multi-verse” where many timelines occurred simultaneously?
The book’s title really says it all: this changes everything. Clara Branon is visited by the holograms of alien beings one night in her home, and her life from that point on is forever changed. She’s chosen as Chief Communicator, the contact person between the Many Worlds Collective and the Earthers, as they’re known by other species; it becomes her job to tell the rest of the world about the MWC and to help them accept it in order to transform our world into a better place for future generations.
I like the way opportunities for “re-sets” are available—how many of us would go back and change certain events if we could?—but are also shown as not always being the best option. Our life experiences shape us into who we are, after all, and if one or more of those is altered, we may not get what we want in the way we think we want it. I also appreciate the nods to authors like Douglas Adams, with the language-interpreting “fish” reminiscent of the Babel fish in his Hitchhiker’s Guide books.
Because Clara is writing/telling of the events occurring in multiple timelines, all the narrative is in the present tense, even for past or future events, which, as an editor, drove me crazy at first. Eventually, I got used to it, but it was occasionally a distraction…after all, past events require past tense verbs, unless the past is happening during the present or the future, in which case...oh, forget it. You’ll get used to it too, after a few pages.
Since the book is essentially a documentation of the initial visitation and transition time, there’s a lot of narrative with little dialogue, which slows down the pace in many spots. I’m a dialogue person, so the long stretches of complex details in the form of transcripts were a lot to absorb and at times felt like too much for one book. [Note: after contacting the author about this, I was informed that the manuscript had been revised and more dialogue had been added to the version that will be published in December.]
At times it felt like it had a definite political slant, with a lot of liberal push, demonizing those who are staunch in their religious or moral beliefs as inflexible and unenlightened, classifying the wealthy as greedy, etc. I have to admit, I didn’t really care for that aspect of it, but that reflects my own personal beliefs and has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself. The novel also has a lot of Buddhist practices and teachings in it, including reincarnation (or ReInvolvement, as the MWC refers to it). I feel the need to mention these things because they’re so present within the book, and many readers prefer to be made aware of any controversial topics or religious leanings prior to reading.
There were parts that really tickled me, such as the explanation of crop circles: teenage alien graffiti, not much different than Earth teens taking a joyride and spray-painting the sides of bridges or boxcars, then racing back home before the authorities catch them. A recounting of an exchange between Clara and her son, Zephyr, over speakerphone had me giggling out loud, because it reminded me so much of phone conversations with my own mother.
The writing is complex and done extremely well. I didn't see an editor listed, and I’m happy to say that Ms. Ember is excellent at self-editing. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling were non-issues, which was very refreshing in an indie book. There were times when I almost forgot I was reading a work of fiction and not a news account of real events, and I would consider that to be skilled writing indeed.
Because different book sites have different meanings to their ratings, I think of the star system as looking at a scale: did I enjoy more of it than not? Yes. Four stars. Did I like the overall content? Most of the time. Three stars. Was the writing of good quality? Oh, definitely yes. Five stars.
My overall rating: four of five stars.