I was excited to get lost in the pages of this book. The protagonist of Sayde Scarlett‘s Clouds and Earth is a former military operative, tech-wiz, and all round bad-arse.
The book is delivered in third omniscient, is 242 pages long, and follows multiple point of view characters.
***DISCLAIMER – I was gifted a review copy of this novel. Also, this review will contain spoilers.***
Corruption and deception are around every corner in Sayde Scarlett’s debut thriller, Clouds and Earth
DUBAI, UAE – It’s 150 years into the future and the great Long war has changed everything. The brilliant Sayde Scarlett debuts her science fiction series The Peace Outside with “Clouds and Earth” (March 26th, Xlibris).
Lieutenant First Class Sandy Attiyeh is either a celebrated war hero or has committed war crimes, depending on what you believe. This was not the kind of world she thought would come home to after fighting in such a brutal war.
When caught up in a corrupt CEO’s twisted plan, Sandy must find a way to salvage the peace she sacrificed everything for.
Clouds and Earth is a dark and thrilling tale of intrigue and espionage set in the data-driven world of tomorrow. Startling and prescient in equal measure, it is a must-read for fans of speculative and science fiction.
As I said above, I was excited to get lost in this book. I really wanted to love it, to be able to gush over it after reading it. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I can.
Clouds and Earth isn’t a bad book, but I didn’t particularly like it.
And this is where I’m experiencing a bit of a crisis. Under normal circumstances, I’d never review a book I didn’t like. I don’t want to ruin an author’s day–especially an indie author–with a less than glowing review.
As this was a review copy, sent to me to review honestly in exchange for a copy of the book, I feel I must share my thoughts. It was a part of the deal, after all.
Sandy has all the makings of a very interesting character. She’s a war hero to some, a mass murderer to others. To help win the Long War, she had to do some horrible things and suffers from major PTSD as a result. She uses narcotics to dull the horrors in her mind, but still manages to remain sharp in all other aspects. She’s a trained operative, after all.
She sounds intriguing, right? Yet I didn’t connect with her at all. She often comes across as petulant, and her behaviour overrides the facts we learn about her throughout the novel.
Above all, she’s painted as a patriot and her internal monologue always mirrors this patriotism. Yet her actions don’t align with her thoughts.
For example, she takes on a law-breaking and treasonous job with Lyndon Hamilton, while Sandy is fully aware just how law-breaking and treasonous this job is.
All because she’s bored, as she puts it. Her actions cancel out boredom, though.
It seems she wants to spite her CO, Muro, for not giving her a mission. But Muro suspects Sandy is suffering from PTSD, and denies her a job to give her time to heal.
Of course Sandy doesn’t know this, but it’s still a leap from being the soldier who ended the war to breaking the law because she’s bored. Especially if she keeps on insisting she’s still a patriot, and everything she does is for her country.
I didn’t really care about any of the secondary characters, other than Massi and, to an extent, Natalia.
Matthew ‘Massi’ Moretti and Natalia Sanghera are final-year cadets at the military academy. Massi is the brawny one, while Natalia is smart. Neither have friends other than each other. They’re also in love with each other, but while Massi wants nothing more than to be with Natalia, she continuously pushes him away in the name of her studies.
When she finally kisses him–of her own accord–they’re caught. At the resulting disciplinary hearing, she claims Massi’s advances were unwelcome. Upon further questioning, she realises she’s accused him of sexual misconduct, she rectifies that it was only a friend comforting a friend, but she wishes he didn’t need comfort.
Massi is punished by having to do double drills, and while this builds his character and makes him more interesting, it leaves me with some questions.
Personally, I struggled to follow the plot at times. This may be because of the scene-based writing style.
Each chapter consists of various little scenes following different characters, sometimes no more than a few paragraphs in length. Instead of flowing into each new viewpoint, we bounce back and forth between these little scenes. Because we bounce so often, it becomes difficult to get into each character’s head.
The bouncing also means that we’re given fragmented information, influenced by whichever character we’re reading about. This is great, except Massi may not know as much as Natalia, who doesn’t know what Sandy knows, who doesn’t know what Muro knows. And by bouncing the reader between scenes so often, it jumbles the lines of who knew what again?
I also feel that this bouncy style removes the reader from the characters they’re trying to get acquainted with. I didn’t feel connected to the characters, didn’t see any real growth (except in Massi), and was overall indifferent about the bunch of them. I didn’t spend long enough in anyone’s head to care about them.
While the other supporting characters have a clear place in the overall plot, I don’t fully understand how Massi and Natalia fit into the greater scheme of things, even though they do cross paths with Sandy.
Additionally, I felt that many of the plot threads were left untied, or weren’t tied in a satisfactory way. Too much was left to hang in the air.
I’m sure everything will make more sense in the second book, but by the end of Clouds and Earth, so much is still unclear that I wish we’d had at least some clues about the main plot.
Again, I don’t think Clouds and Earth is a bad book, it’s just not for me. It has all the elements of a good sci-fi thriller, and reminded me of some of the crime dramas we’ve watched on TV.
If you’re into books or series with loads of technology, crime, and court drama, Clouds and Earth may be just the book for you. Get a copy here.
Thanks for reading.