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Paul Caruba, charter member of the National Book Critics Circle says the following:
"It is rare when a novelist makes his debut with as powerful a novel as Philip Chen's Falling Star .... This novel stands out for the way you are introduced not just to the characters, but the physical reality in which they live, the sights and even the smells. Slowly and then with increasing intensity, the mysteries are unraveled, the enemies identified, as life and death often hangs in the balance ... Chen brings an authenticity to the novel that provides a heart-pounding reality that forces you to ask "What if?" What if Earth was under observation by those from another planet that is circling a dying sun? What if they intended to colonize it? What if the year for this was 2013? If you read just one novel in 2011, make it Falling Star."
Other reviewers have said the following about Falling Star:
"In 'Falling Star' Philip Chen writes with such quiet authority and such a wealth of expert knowledge that I was lulled into the belief that I was reading a factual version of events rather than a work of fiction. The book quickly sets off with the discovery of objects suggestive of an alien presence on Earth and this aspect of the book is quietly progressed throughout, culminating in a conclusion which raises as many questions as it answers, giving the reader plenty to think about. At the same time I was carried through the book by the compulsively exciting tale of undercover agents and the infiltration of their organisation by a network of spies so carefully absorbed into American society as to be almost untraceable. The main character, Mike, was well drawn and likeable but complex and psychologically convincing. I also enjoyed the presence of strong female characters in the inimitable Mildred and the brilliant and beautiful Martha. Interesting premise, convincingly handled in an exciting and compelling novel."
"Mr. Chen's writing style is precise, almost military and chock full of information that makes the reader wonder if this story might not be fiction at all, but something very real and very disturbing."
"With the political/military intrigue of a Tom Clancy novel and the Sci-Fi feel of the 2001/2010/2061 Arthur C. Clarke novels coupled with the page turner, fast paced plot of a Dan Brown novel how could you go wrong."
"... an absolutely stunning read! I could not stop reading! I was intrigued from the first words, and just kept on reading."
"From the early pages, I knew this was a writer to be taken seriously. Mr. Chen has penned a dynamic, thought-provoking cross between contemporary thriller and science fiction tome. His characters are well developed, the multiple storylines complex, and the ending ..."
"I haven't enjoyed a book this much since Tom Clancy stopped putting out novels."
"Mysterious and provocative, an intelligently written page turner by someone who knows his subject. Once I began reading Falling Star, I had to read this well-detailed thriller right through to the end."
"Anyone interested in the future of America's defense and weaponry will find this novel gripping."
"I will never see the ocean in the same light again."
Cover image by Tomo Yun at http://yunphoto.net/en/
Posted March 27, 2011
In "Falling Star," Philip Chen spins a great yarn in this thriller combining science and cold war political intrigue. The plot is complex spanning many years and a wide range of settings. While the cast of characters is large, the major characters are all well drawn and likeable, with unique personalities and characteristics that makes keeping them straight easy. Aloysius "Mike" Liu, one of the few characters featured throughout most of the book has a life story surprising like Chen's.
With a complex plot that touches on many technical areas, Chen appears to have done his research. The science, politics, geography and other technical subjects appear realistic. Although fiction, nothing about his story is something you'll say, "That couldn't have possibly happened."
This attention to detail is both a strength and the source of my only two complaints. The first is a propensity to repeat a detail that matters, but isn't critical. An example is, "Mike and Ellen went into the surprisingly small Situation Room of CSAC. Television monitors lined one wall of the remarkably small room." That the room is small is a detail that matters. It adds color, helping the reader imagine what the author pictures. It isn't a detail that requires repeating.
The other idiosyncrasy that sometimes got in the way of the story is painting a picture with too much specific detail. Take this description of an investment banker's office. "Beside the large mahogany desk and leather chair, the office had a comfortable leather sofa and armchair, mahogany coffee table, dark Chippendale side chairs, and expensive oriental lamps." Rather than inventory the office furnishings this could have been accomplished with something like, "The office was expensively furnished in dark wood and leather by Chippendale."
Despite the occasional bump from these writing tics, I found "Falling Star" an enjoyable read. The story line is both original and at credible enough to make you think it might have really happened.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog.**
Posted January 31, 2011
It all began with an anomalous magnetic signal. From there, the situation expanded quickly, drawing in multiple acronym-plagued departments, too many officers to count, and a great amount of confusion, thus eliciting a combination of paranoia and justified concern on the part of the United States government. Chen's story is well thought-out, the many layers of conspiracy a clever merging of the political and the fantastical.
Chen appears to draw upon many of his own experiences in this work, as evidenced by the technical minutiae provided for every underwater vessel, as well as the similarity in background between his education and ethnicity and those of his protagonist, Aloysius "Mike" Liu. In spite of this connection, however, Chen evenly distributes his focus between several key players and avoids focusing solely on the experiences of one. This enriches the storyline by encompassing multiple arenas in which important action is occurring.
Unfortunately, there were in fact too many characters introduced over the course of the book. Many of them had intricate backgrounds, which detracted from the story by giving the reader too many things to take in at once. Most of the characters we are told about only appear for one or two scenes, after which they vanish, save for a brief reference later that was nice as a tie-in but not wholly necessary to make the novel work. This book might have benefited from having the spotlight focused on the central characters, with dimmer lighting for what is essentially the background.
Perhaps what contributed to the confusion was my distraction by several writing ticks. The author has the tendency to repeat himself, such as restating the subject in every sentence within the same paragraph. This proved to be grating, though thankfully, there were whole sections of text in which this habit did not make an appearance. In their place was the frequent misuse (or lack of use) of commas, semicolons, colons, and long dashes. Between the punctuation problems, the redundancies, and the repeated use of "Suburban's" as the plural form of "Suburban" (the vehicle) I nearly put this book down at less than a third of the way through. The slowness of the beginning did not help.
Thankfully, I plowed on, and while the writing remained as it ever was, the plot did improve considerably. Though I maintain that the first thirty percent or so of the work could have easily been summarized elsewhere, the rest of it moves in an action-packed method that eventually drew me into piecing together the puzzle alongside CSAC. I did have to pause many times due to the plethora of unnecessary details, such as the exact type of guns that each of a dozen gunmen were holding. At times, I felt as if I were reading either a movie script or a technical manual or, on occasion, a character's résumé. Even so, this may appeal to readers with a greater interest in weaponry than I possess.
Falling Star has a lot of potential - the storyline is interesting and original, and it is set up quite nicely for a sequel. The manuscript could stand a few more revisions, however, both for errors and to reduce the amount of extraneous data.
Stimulated Outlet Book Reviews
Posted January 20, 2011
Philip Chen's first novel, Falling Star, is a winner. He has successfully combined several often disparate aspects of telling a good story that runs from 1967 to 1993! The characters are believable. The scenes are painted accurately, almost cinema-graphically. The story is believable, pulls the reader along and it is easy to read. It involves espionage, technology, mysticism and mystery woven well together. I could stop here and my critique would be complete. My only serious complaint (aside from the e-book format) was the somewhat abrupt ending that left a few strings dangling perhaps hinting at a sequel. That would be nice. However, I must add that I read Falling Star as an e-book. As a rule, I don't like e-books. I like reading ink on paper. Nonetheless, Chen quickly won this reader over. There are many details in the story that are very familiar or tangentially familiar to me personally. They added the air of authenticity to his story in a way few can. Mr. Chen obviously drew on his personal experience as an engineer, oceanographer, researcher, trial lawyer and investment banker.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2011
I won a copy of this eBook from an eBook blog and dove right in as soon as I downloaded it. The story starts out good, and picks up from there. By the time I was halfway through, it was hard to put down. I just wanted to keep turning the pages. It's a thriller, with a bit of a sci-fi bent. The story skillfully combines cold-war military espionage, underwater navel research, and UFOs. Several mysterious, probably extra-terrestrial, objects are discovered at the bottom of the ocean. The US government establishes a program to monitor these objects. After several decades of observation, the objects begin to generate activity. Throughout the book, we watch the main character, Mike, and his involvement with the objects, from their discovery to the (almost) present day. Along the way, Mike and other government agents have to deal with unknown cold-war era threats.
I really enjoyed how well this was written, both in terms of plot and character development. On the surface, several of the characters appear somewhat stereotypical, but I think their portrayal was appropriate and reasonable. Several times, the author touches on the subject of racism. He refrains from being preachy, however, and each treatment of racism is essential to either move the plot or develop a character. I was really impressed by that touch. I don't know much about underwater exploration, but it's obvious that the author does. His description of the underwater scenes were technical and vivid enough, without being burdensome, to clearly portray the action that takes place. He puts me right in the submersible with the characters. It was lots of fun to read.
The story told is a great stand-alone tale. It wraps itself up neatly, but also leaves a few small loose ends, which provide an obvious opportunity for a sequel, or even a series. I hope the author releases a sequel. When he does, I'll be first in line to get a copy.
Posted December 6, 2010
I thoroughly and pleasantly surprised by the storyline after I began reading because I had assumed (wrongly) from the name that this was another 'Deep Impact' style disaster novel. Not at all!
There were a few typos and formatting problems, but nothing that detracted greatly from the story. The formatting problem seemed to be confined to the paragraph indents which were not consistent.
The character Johnny Thapala was the most enigmatic at first, but by the end of the book, his significance became significant.
The 'bad guys' were truly bad in most cases, trained killers just waiting for the signal to go into full throttle. Through Mr. Chen's descriptions of their thoughts and deeds, I felt no sympathy for them.
The ladies were very surprising and I had to smile when they proved the old adage that 'looks can be deceiving'. I didn't like their names, however, as they seemed a bit old fashioned in my opinion, but that has little to do with the story. Probably just a generational thing on my part.
Mike Liu, the main character, had enough back-story and depth to lend credence to his existence. He was powerful, but not all-knowing and indestructible and he was just a little bit unwilling. I thought his attitude was quite acceptable as a man who had already put in his time and was only doing what he had to do out of a sense of responsibility and duty. He was intelligent, but not nerdy, nor was he the typical 'James Bond' sort of guy.
There were a number of secondary and tertiary characters that left me feeling confused at times and I had to go back and try to figure out who they were and where they came from. In such an all-encompassing story, a great many people were necessary to make it work.
Mr. Chen's writing style is quite professional in nature. He gives vivid descriptions of shootouts, interrogations and murder that make me look at strangers even more warily on the bus. There is great deal of technical information between the covers that should keep all the techno-thriller fans happy and I learned a great deal about the rigors of undersea operations.
The only real complaint I have is that the dialog seems a bit stilted in some places and too much technical data is included that I don't believe would be included in a normal conversation between friends or co-workers although the information was very useful to the reader.
Last, but not least, being a girl, I would have liked a bit more romance in there somewhere, but again, it would not have been only ornamental and not necessary for the plot development.
Mr. Chen interspersed the novel with dates and times so that there was very little doubt as to timeline in the story and I saw no problems with trucks starting out as white and turning green during a gun battle.
Overall Rating: 4+
Overall, I give the book a 4+. Well written, well planned and painstakingly edited. Full of details and technical information that made my head spin. A little work on a more comfortable dialog and (maybe just a little romance?) it would have made my fiver list.
Violence, adult language, adult situations. Also available in Paperback.
Posted September 14, 2011
No text was provided for this review.