Julia and the Dream Maker
by P. J. Fisher
Review by Steve Sawicki
Traitor Dachshund Books Trade ISBN/ITEM#: 0974428701
Date: 11/04 List Price 13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. It's been done. Hundreds of times. Been done since the fifties at least and it's been done by some of the best in the field. And it's still being done as writers poke and prod at the few dark spaces left and hope to wrangle a new plot twist out of material that even the Twilight Zone doesn't do anymore. Julia and the Dream Maker is the story of Steven, his girlfriend Eli, and a geek named Bennie who join together to create a toy to make a few bucks. Of course they use genetic material, which is illegal, optimize the thing with artificial intelligence and somehow open a door to another dimension in the process. The whole thing is presented through their eyes as Steven stands trial.
The plot twists and surroundings are presented via the trial, with each witness telling their part. This is tricky stuff because you not only have to make sure you get the facts right but it's a nasty game to play with the reader who essentially can't trust anyone who's speaking because everything is subjective. You also need to adapt a different voice as scenes switch from character to character. Fisher succeeds with the believability but the voice never quite makes the transition from one person to the next. The other problem is that this is pretty tired old stuff. It might be new to Fischer and the publisher but it won't be that new to anyone who's read even a modicum of SF over the years. Let's face it; genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are not new ideas. In fact, in a couple of places it's a bit tedious to be lectured to by a character in an expository lump when you know more about these things than the character does. This is a problem that every writer who tries to burst in from the outside must struggle with.
Overall, the book is well written and the story well told, it's just not that new a story and thus it's hard to sustain a whole lot of interest in what's going on. The inter-dimensional stuff could be interesting but it's hard to tell as it's really just teased at here and will no doubt be explored more in the next book.
The other odd thing about this book is the publishing history. While the book is scheduled for a November 2004 (or Fall 2004) release, it really came out in January or February of 2004 but was held back until the Fall. This means that copies have been floating around for quite a few months now. There is a certain charm to the characters and Fischer does a decent job of story telling so the book's not a bad read.