It is my stop on this extensive blog tour for Catalyst, which is the second book in Tracy Richardson’s series, but works ideally as a standalone. Thank you very much to Tracy for providing a free copy, and also to Dave @ The Write Reads for organising the tour.
Just a quick note before I begin. This book features archaeologists with the surname Horton. I work with the Anthropology and Archaeology department at the University of Bristol where I knew Professor Mark Horton, who is a minor celebrity in the UK, so that brought a smile when I started reading.
Published: 2nd June 2020
Genre: Science Fiction/Young Adult
Trigger warnings: Racism
Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained-an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit. But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.
This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archaeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilisation, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke.
The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds – something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with. Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.
This may not be an especially long book, but it is packed throughout with a continual stream of abstract and outlandish ideas. It contains a very strong overarching message and it was clear what kind of story the author was trying to tell, however I felt there were flaws that lay in the execution of some of these concepts, which made it less of an enjoyable read.
The main plot strands focus primarily on conveying an elaborate science fiction premise, along with exploring an environmentally friendly theme where the subject of fracking is covered in extensive detail. It occasionally made for powerful reading, but the story does not always do an effective job of balancing the two. There is also some romance involved, though the characters barely leave much of an impression.
Marcie is a teenage girl with an unusual sixth sense, who once connected with a departed spirit. Now, she is on an archaeological dig that is being led by her mother at an old Iron Age site, where she meets two mysterious postgraduates. Along with her brother Eric, his girlfriend Renee, and a group of other students, she discovers that Lorraine and Zeke have unearthly abilities.
Meanwhile, it is announced that fracking is due to take place at a nearby site and Marcie attends a meeting of the local community, where arguments from both sides are presented. Lorraine and Zeke share Marcie’s mission to prevent the fracking and inform her that she must help to save Mother Earth, before they reveal their true identities.
I liked how fracking was used as an important part of the plot, and initially the book was quite easy to follow. It is around the halfway mark where the science fiction element really begins to take hold and it all becomes a whole lot more complex. There were some unusual and imaginative ideas at this point, but they all came at me so quickly that it felt like a bit of an information overload. It was literally one thing after the next.
There was nothing that really made this book gripping. In spite of the interesting topics that arise, there are no surprising twists or revelations, while most of the characters are uninspiring. Once we learn all about Lorraine and Zeke in the second half of the book and travel through different dimensions, if anything I became less engaged.
I am reliably informed that the first book in this series is told from Eric’s point of view, but here everything happens from Marcie’s perspective. Narrated in the first person present, the writing was engaging and thoughtful, placing considerable emphasis on the anti-fracking message. As a character, that is where Marcie is at her most compelling.
Otherwise, I thought she was badly underdeveloped. She lacks a bit of personality and despite her ‘sixth sense’, rarely seemed surprised or overwhelmed by any of the events that took place during the book. I found Renee’s reaction a great deal more believable.
On the plus side, Marcie is quite likeable and I thought her romance with Leo approached a very important question: Can you love someone if their views on an issue that matters to you differ completely from yours? I thought this was handled well and really brought something extra to the storytelling. Of all the characters, Leo had the most interesting arc.
The main setting of the book is Angel Mound, the site of the archaeological dig. Having been on digs myself, I was impressed by the level of accuracy in relation to the techniques and processes that are used. What did make me roll my eyes was how quickly all the students seemed to develop feelings for one another. Marcie and Leo was one thing, but I felt with Scott and Lainey it was taking that a bit too far!
I liked how eloquently the anti-fracking message was communicated, although at times it meant the dialogue was hit and miss. It seemed to lack a little authenticity due to the number of technical terms that were used. That often made it feel more like rhetoric than actual dialogue. Having said that, it still acts as a good way of educating the reader about the dangers posed by fracking.
Overall, this book contains some very strong ideas and themes, but does not totally succeed in terms of its execution. I found the second half fairly difficult to engage with and I thought the characters lacked any real development. The environmental message is strong, but the story itself did not capture my attention in the way that I hoped.
Tracy Richardson has always been a reader, and when she was young her favourite book was A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which became an important influence on her life.
Currently living in Indianapolis, she has a degree in biology and uses her science background in her writing, focusing on environmental issues and metaphysics.
I liked certain aspects of this book and it addresses some important and relevant issues, but there were flaws and to be honest the science-fiction side was not really to my taste.
My rating: ⭐⭐.5