Author: David Klass

Publication: 2008, Square Fish

Pages: 320

Overall Rating:

Rating for Action:

Quantity of Action:

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Jack thinks he’s a pretty normal guy until the day he ignores his dad’s advice and lets himself shine on the football field.  Local TV covers the event, and suddenly Jack’s parents are terrified.  They have to run, because there are some very bad people who want them dead.  Soon Jack is on his own, with no idea what’s going on except that before getting killed his meek father was wielding some kind of laser gun and calling him The Beacon of Hope.   Jack learns fast that he can’t trust anyone, but he might have to break his own rules if he wants to survive and figure out what’s going on.  Because, like it or not, he is The Beacon of Hope, and he’s been sent back in time to stop The Turning Point and reverse an environmental decline that will eventually destroy the earth.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Klass weaves a lot of serious environmental issues into the book, giving it more depth than your average thriller.  This is particularly true when Jack spends some time aboard a deep sea trawler and gets to see firsthand the heavy environmental consequences of our greed and apathy.  As Jack struggles to find the Turning Point, that moment in time when we could still reverse the damage that would ultimately doom our planet, we’re given a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the environment and on the damage that each of us does every day without even thinking about it.

But perhaps the best thing about this book was Gisco, the huge dog who speaks to Jack telepathically and helps guide him on his journey.  Gisco is an endless source of humor, the consummate coward who loves to extol the many virtues of canines while glossing over his own shortcomings and referring to Jack as “Old Bean”.  Good fun and a vividly imagined and unusual character.

What I Liked the Least:  In the end, the actual task that Jack has to accomplish to prevent the Turning Point felt far too mundane for all the build-up that accompanied it.  And the sacred weapon he was supposed to find – Firestorm – came off as equally mundane.  After all the build-up, I was hoping for something a little more unusual.  Though, in fairness to Klass, the real environmental turning point, when we do hit it, will probably be equally mundane and impossible for anyone to see.

Klass also makes very heavy use of short, fragmentary sentences.  In action scenes that can help build the pace and drive things forward.  But Klass uses his fragmentary sentences everywhere, and after a while that just got annoying.

How Good was the Action? Like I said, Klass’s heavy reliance on fragmentary sentences helped maintain a sense of frenetic energy.  But I think they also gave the action scenes a somewhat clinical feeling.  I liked the action, but it was often hard to lose myself in it, and that came down to a combination of the clipped language and the relative lack of emotion in many of the action scenes.  Not that Jack is mechanical, but the action scenes themselves often lacked the emotional intensity required to pull readers into the moment.  Good, but not great.

How Engaging was the Story? Jack’s an interesting character, and I enjoyed following along as he tried to work out who he was and what he needed to do.  In some ways, the first part of his journey was the most interesting – when he’s totally in the dark.  But the more he learns the less engaging the story became.  Because, while Jack may still have been in the dark, as a reader the secrets he had to discover felt a little too obvious.

Overall Assessment: A fun thriller with a serious environmental streak running through it.

Profanity: Little to none

Sex: Some kissing and nudity.  There is a modestly graphic description of a nude woman and a bit of fantasizing.

Violence: There are fights, but most of them are of the sore jaw rather than blood and guts variety.  Jack does get a finger cut off at one point, but even that isn’t overly bloody. 

Speak Your Mind