Reality Check – a novel by Eric Garrison

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Part of my unofficial “Mission Statement” here at Bibliophilopolis is to read more local writers and more ‘unknown’ or independent authors. Last weekend I read a book that killed these two birds with one stone. It was Eric Garrison’s fantasy novel, Reality Check. I was already aware of this author from the FaceBook group of the local NaNoWriMo’ers, where for the most part I’m a long-standing lurker, and had also checked out his web page. Then, a couple weeks ago I’m sipping coffee in “Mo Joe’s” Coffeehouse, and I see a post card-sized advertisement for this novel on their bulletin board. I thought, “Now here’s a writer who’s really putting forth the effort.” As a firm believer that effort should be rewarded (not that I’d argue that my reading or blogging about a book is a particularly sought after prize), I decided to read this novel. I’m glad I did, as it was quite an enjoyable read.

Reality Check (subtitled “A Tale of Quantum Entanglements”) begins, appropriately, in a lab. Three friends – Lee (the protagonist), Dionne, and Cecil – are working with a machine, the Q-T (Quantum-Turing) computer, which is a big step up from primitive virtual-reality machines and games. They’re having problems, though. Their most recent beta tester of the game their machine runs has trouble ending the “simulation,” coming out of it with a seemingly different personality and knowledge of a alternate world that takes several minutes to wear off. Her reaction prompts Cecil to exclaim “Holy shit! The thing actually works.”

It doesn’t exactly work how it’s supposed to, though, prompting Lee (an engineer) to grab his virtual toolkit and head into a simulation himself. His consciousness emerges in an alternate reality, with steampunk-ish giant airships and two familiar faces – his friends Dionne and Cecil. They are, at their core, the same people he knows, but unaware of their counterparts in HIS reality. Lee’s adventures continue, and, when his programmed time in this simulation and alternate reality expires, instead of returning to the lab, he finds himself in a third reality. Again, his two friends occupy a place in it, but they -and especially HE – are again different and changed.

Throughout all the realities, Lee’s secret (in the real world) love for Dionne endures and presents him with many unique challenges. His struggles in dealing with them, and his efforts to return home to his familiar reality fuel the rest of this fast-paced novel.

I think, with a plot line featuring alternate realities, it is a delicate business to write a story where the reader doesn’t himself become “entangled” (that word again) in them to the degree that blurs the novel  beyond one’s capability to enjoy it. I am reminded slightly of that movie, Inception where, in my opinion anyway, the “delicate business” was not handled so well.  Garrison’s novel, however, does NOT take you so far removed from ‘reality’ as to cause this blurring, though – not an easy achievement.

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Another, perhaps better, example was the “Ship in a Bottle” episode of the Star Trek:The Next Generation series, where confusing multiple realities were handled much better (and wrapped up quite nicely, I’d say). Mentioning Star Trek reminds me also that this book includes many nods to the sci-fi genre, references that its fans would certainly appreciate.

(below: actor Daniel Davis as Professor Moriarity in ST:TNG’s “Ship in a Bottle”)

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This book is available on Amazon I purchased a Nook copy, but it had some issues with inconsistent font size which were somewhat distracting. I haven’t seen the Kindle version, but am hoping it is free of those issues.

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