Author: Lynn Voedisch
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication date: September 29, 2020
Genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy, General Fiction, Computers
One Sentence Summary: Derek and George only want to find the hidden cache of information stored somewhere out in cyberspace by a notorious (now imprisoned) hacker, but, when a mysterious voice starts talking to Derek and an irresistible woman sets her sights on him, that information suddenly becomes a lot more important.
There was something immensely alluring about the book description. It mentions a voice coming from over a computer, which is fascinating to me in itself. But then it goes on to mention goddesses and mysteries, and my mind just started spinning into fantasy worlds. I somehow envisioned a story where Derek was toiling away so diligently on finding a treasure trove of data somewhere out in cyberspace and then getting sucked into a fantasy world. Well, that’s not quite how the story played out, but there’s a fair bit of fantasy in it.
The Plot: Derek’s Story
Derek works as a programmer by day and a hacker sifting through an untold amount of data to find a trove of data hidden away by a now imprisoned infamous hacker by night. With just his cat Foo and a plant that won’t die to keep him company, he and his friend George are pouring everything in to finding the data and becoming wealthy off of it.
But then a voice coming through his computer startles Derek awake. Roger offers help and warnings, direction and philosophy. Then an alluring woman named Sekhmet reaches out, offering help and information, but she leads him into an age old dance that he could never have guessed at.
Along with his mother’s cousin Boone and new girlfriend Kyra, Derek sets off across the country, following the virtual fingers Roger and Sekmet point him in, unknowingly walking into danger, adventure, his estranged father, and the chance of a lifetime.
Soundrise presents a story that pulls the reader into a world where the edges of time and space are blurred, where long dead gods walk again, where the past claws for a handhold in the future. It’s tantalizing, once you’re in the thick of it, moving between the stark present and Egyptian mythology and ancient history. There’s adventure and danger and secrets just waiting to be let out. But the writing is not smooth. There’s a bit too much tell here and there. The far ends of the novel are slow and almost meandering though it still follows the overall story, almost ploddingly sees the plot through to the end. It sounds like it should be a fascinating tale from start to finish with breathless discovery and adventure at every turn, what with mysterious voices and alluring female strangers, but instead turns into a drawn out story with uneven pacing and multiple points where I wish it had hurried up or ended.
If, however, you look at the story another way, it suddenly makes more sense. It’s the story of Derek’s transformation from complete computer nerd with only a cat and a plant to keep him company into a whole, complete individual. As the story unfolds, Derek is tested in many ways and given the gift of an amazingly beautiful, smart, and adventurous girlfriend. The adventure Roger and Sekhmet lead him on forces him to confront his past and who he is as a man, slowly becoming the person he’s meant to be. While the description might lead a reader to think there’s more technology and hacking and computers involved (there is a fair amount), it’s surprisingly not a major part of the story, which makes a whole lot more sense when looked through the lens of a man finding himself.
The Characters: Still Derek’s Story
Soundrise revolves around Derek. A dedicated computer nerd with a decent day job and a fascinating tech mystery on his hands at night, he doesn’t need much in his life. His days follow a routine. He has his mother, whom he checks on as she’s been suffering from terrible bouts of depression since her ex-husband left town five years before, but he doesn’t really know how to help her. He works with George on the data, but they’re rarely in the same place together. He’s not exactly interesting, until he meets Kyra and falls for her. Then he stumbles into becoming human and feels more lifelike.
For as large a part Kyra plays in Derek’s life and transformation, she’s incredibly flat. She has her role and plays it to perfection, but never tests the boundaries. She’s there solely as a support to Derek, to guide him and encourage him. At first, she’s a stunning compliment to Derek, but, over time, her character feels leeched of color and she slowly starts to drift off the pages as Derek comes into his own.
Aside from Derek, every character was merely a supporting one. They were assigned a part and played it flawlessly, but it made them predictable and almost completely uninteresting. Of course, this is Derek’s story and he is the star, but he made literally everyone else completely lackluster. Except Boone. I don’t think anyone or anything could make Boone dull.
The Setting: Across the Country and Into Egypt
Full of adventure, Soundrise takes the reader across the country from the Midwest to the West and off to the East. It even ventures out of the country, but most of it is set firmly in the US. For as much traveling as there was, there was still a good sense of place, even when they were only in a location for a short time. Most of the love went into locations the characters spent a good deal of time in, but everywhere else still got a good dose of description. I liked that, woven into the pedantic descriptions of what it looked like, there was a sense of place, of atmosphere, in the way the descriptions were worded. It helped inform the reader that the characters were, indeed traveling. No one place really stood out in my mind, but I still left the book with a feeling of the Midwest and Southwest, even a bit of Egypt.
Overall: A Strong Focus on Egyptian Mythology and History
As I mentioned earlier, Soundrise wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. It turned out to be not quite as interesting, but still had a lot of elements that I liked. The Egyptian mythology and history felt like it carried on for too long and I was disappointed there wasn’t more actual hacking going on. It felt more like Derek and George were just waiting around for other hackers to deliver the good stuff to them, but I did really like the way Derek was drawn in even deeper. It was also nice to watch him unfold and evolve as a person, though Kyra felt more like a prop, one that was fascinating at first and then became almost completely irrelevant unless needed. I did feel the whole story went on a little long, or was maybe a little too wordy, but looking at it as something of a character study, it was quite interesting.
Great if you enjoy: Egyptian mythology and history; focus on a single character; sweet romance; adventure and travel
Not great if you’re looking for: computer/hacking heavy story lines; multiple POVs
How many cups of tea will you need?
3 cups should do
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Thank you to Netgalley and The Story Plant for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.