Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: DiSemblance - Shanae Branham

A copy was provided by the Author
in exchange for
an honest review.
DiSemblance by Shanae Branham
Series: Hologram Series #1
Genre: YA, mystery, science fiction, thriller
Published on August 20, 2012
Published by CreateSpace
Pages: 369
Read From: 7.8.13 - 7.13.13

As a computer prodigy, Jason has spent his life with limited social contact due to his father's secretive work on a hologram machine that can create digital immortality. When his father is murdered and framed as the Comfort Killer, Jason is targeted as the killer's new fall guy. Having spent much of his youth living in the virtual world his father created, he must now go on the run if he is going to save himself, his brother, and the beautiful girl next door.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? My opinion of the cover art is somewhere in between. I like the whole descending mirrors and I don't even mind the character impersonator reflections. But there's almost something about the whole thing that kind of makes it feel bland. It just catches my interest, but only just.

Characters: I didn't dislike any of the characters, though my first impression of Isaac - Jason's brother - wasn't exactly favorable. There was something about Isaac that struck me as being a little mentally unstable. The sort of mentally unstable that can lead to becoming the villain in a story, not "he seems a little slow" mentally unstable. I re-read the part where Isaac is first introduced, to see if my impression changed after reading the book, and it didn't, even though I'm pretty sure that that's not the impression we Readers are supposed to get. Maybe it's because when we first meet Isaac he essentially traps Jason in the hologram room and puts him in the Sahara. Maybe it's because Isaac has been spying on Boston, their next-door female neighbor, and is constructing a holographic imagine of her. Just a bit weird and creepy, right? Or it's possible that it's just me, and that no one else will feel that way about Isaac, but that is how I felt about him and quite honestly, I still don't entirely trust Isaac. I don't really know why; I just don't. The other characters - Jason especially - didn't really make an impression me either way. They weren't cardboard; Jason had a very believable personality that made it easy for me to imagine meeting him in real life, and Boston was not nearly as useless and annoying as I first thought she might be upon reading the synopsis. But I personally didn't become all that emotionally attached to them, and that's just because I don't connect to "every day normal girl/guy" characters. Some Readers will find it very easy to like and understand Jason; others won't. I tried very hard to connect with Bruce, the police detective, but I couldn't see past his NCIS cop personality. There was also the fact that he had no personal struggles that I could relate to, either. Bruce's biggest struggle is balancing his work with his marriage life, and as a decidedly single 21-year-old, I couldn't connect with that.

The Romance: Jason and Boston have it for each other, naturally, but amazingly the romance actually isn't all that annoying. It's a bit rushed, but the book doesn't focus on it too much, and neither Jason nor Boston became utterly ridiculous around one another.

Plot: Jason's dad is a genius inventor, having built a real life - and working - version of the holodeck in Star Trek. People can enter it either physically or mentally and experience virtual reality like never before. But Jason's dad is super paranoid that someone will try and steal his invention, and so he has isolated him and his sons entirely from the world. Living in a house surrounded by the best security systems to ever be built, Jason isn't allowed to date, have friends outside of the family, and has never gone to a public or private school. Not that he's needed one; he was able to learn everything he needed at home, on the Internet, or with the holodeck. But when Jason's father is murdered and then implicated as the Comfort Killer - a serial killer who's been murdering terminally ill patients - Jason's world comes crashing down. He's forced to destroy his father's work and flee with his brother Isaac and the girl next door, Boston. Jason tries to discover who framed - and killed - his father and why, all with Detective Bruce Durante hot on his heels - and the person who might be responsible for everything that's happening to him. While I did not connect with the characters, the plot kept me engaged, which makes this book - in my eyes - more plot-driven than character-driven. But my opinion of the plot - or at least it's presentation - is as divided as my opinion of the cover art. The story itself is interesting. We have a serial killer who has framed the protagonist's dad for his crimes, and then killed him. And we have three teens on the run from the police and some mysterious person determined to catch and possibly murder them. Part of the story's revelations are told through Bruce's investigation. His superiors are convinced Jason has something to do with the murders, while Bruce is certain that there's much more to the whole thing than meets the eye. The problem I had with Bruce's chapters were 1)I got tired of reading about his marital problems, and 2)I couldn't shake the TV cop show feel, which caused the whole thing to feel cliche and a little cheap. And that, in turn, rather irritated me, because it wasn't cheap! The plot, as a whole, is interesting. There were lots of "what the heck" moments, which was both a good and bad reaction, and lots of good chase scenes. The Comfort Killer was an intriguing serial killer with a unique style (unless it's been done on a TV show, which is possible; I actually don't watch that may TV cop shows, so it felt unique to me). But there were times when the plot also got really confusing. At some point in the story, Jason is captured by the villains who are responsible for framing his dad, and then suddenly Jason is hallucinating. And then he's in a hospital, people are telling him that his brother and Boston died in a car crash, that he's mentally unstable, and then he's in a high speed car chase, and then the car is overturned and blows up, and then he's back at his house and . . . . Now it all does get explained in the end, and I knew what was going on about halfway through, but I still found it to be extremely confusing, to a point that often left my head spinning. So the presentation wasn't the best; I think the Author could have made things more clear while still keeping the "twist" secret.

Believability: Not wholly applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. I did like that the Author changed the font every time Jason or someone else was in the holodeck; it helped clarify what was real and what wasn't. The writing style for the most part was fine, though it was at times difficult to follow (as stated previously).

Content: None.

Conclusion: The plot stopped being confusing once the climax came about, because things are explained and become coherent. There were a couple of aspects that seemed a little too simple for me [Spoiler] releasing the people from the holodeck by just making them realize they were dead seemed a bit too smooth, and Bruce just taking Jason and Isaac in like that too simple. There would be some legal complications [End spoiler], but I accepted them easily enough. So while DiSemblance did not strike a chord with me when it comes to characters, and the presentation was very difficult to follow at times, I did enjoy the plot itself. It was exciting, intriguing, and coupled the crime genre with science fiction in a very fun way.

Recommended Audience: Guy-read, sixteen-and-up, great for science fiction mystery fans.

Others in the Hologram Series:
2)Boston's Quest

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