Foreword Reviews

Calling Days

2014 INDIES Finalist
Finalist, Science Fiction (Adult Fiction)

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

A dystopian Colorado offers insight into human conflict in an engaging, complex world.

Set in a post-World-War-III Colorado, Calling Days is a fast-paced combination of sci-fi and the hard-boiled sleuthing of detective fiction, brought together by author Jeff Christopher Leonard. The novel is an engaging, if brief, look into a dystopian future at a society struggling to move on.

In 2099, Colorado continues to collect itself after the destruction of a nuclear war. With a new capital city, Ovestoll, taking the place of Denver, the old city deteriorates into a hive of poverty and crime. The story follows Mac Dreggar, a passionate and principled detective with a chip on his shoulder and a complicated relationship with faith. The story bounces between Mac in the present and sixteen years prior, bringing together disparate plot lines in a dramatic conclusion.

Amid the milieu of a society struggling to move forward is a mysterious cult called the True Order, led by a powerful Master. Having rejected a call to the priesthood after a personal tragedy in his youth, Mac joins the police force, set on solving the disappearances of dozens of people. The case leads him through eerie crime scenes, dangerous run-ins, and, ultimately, devastating betrayal.

Leonard is a proficient world builder and clearly describes the new life emerging from past destruction. Children born with genetic mutations and slowly mutating adults create a believable social tension between healthy citizens and the ostracized mutants. Meanwhile, physicists have just proven that the universe created itself, causing age-old conflicts to reemerge between scientists and the faithful. This provides an exciting backdrop for the story and leaves readers wanting to know more about this complex new world.

While the premise of the story has great potential, some aspects of the writing make it fall short. There is a tendency in the early chapters to shift between first and third person, leaving the audience to guess at what is happening and to whom. While this issue diminishes later in the book, it is a distracting way to begin.

Although it’s a novella, and not a novel, the short chapters feel fractured and choppy, inhibiting full immersion. Character development is also stifled, so when Mac survives a tragedy that takes the lives of his family and friends, his reaction feels unemotional and flat.

That said, the author’s writing style is clear and accessible, and the dynamic themes will be appealing to a young-adult audience. There are enough gruesome details and fantastical settings to keep readers engaged and looking beyond the structural issues. Leonard has proven his ability to create futuristic scenarios and rich character relationships.

Reviewed by Eric Anderson

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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