GFsmith Books (2015)
Reviewed by Ben Green for Reader Views (01/16)
I was quite impressed with G.F. Smith’s “Smartbrain” from the start. This book has everything I would want from an Indy sci-fi-ish story. I say sci-fi-ish because the technology that “Smartbrain” is pitching is not really that far-fetched or futuristic. The story has all the elements of a good one: it is well-written, well-paced, and given the length of the novel, a worthy investment in entertainment. In fact, when I started Smartbrain, I really, really liked it. Sure, there were some seemingly obvious foreshadowing and romance angles that seemed both too easy and unlikely but even so, it had all the makings of a good futuristic read. The “smartbrain” technology is, as the name suggests, basically a smartphone in your brain. The story starts off in a predictable fashion but the author’s ability to detail how the technology works without boring the reader, and while continuing to move the story on is both entertaining and impressive.
Of course, we all know that technology this powerful is going to have some negative side effects. It could also easily be misused and clearly, the government will be highly involved. While “Smartbrain” does touch on these issues, it also takes the story in a totally different direction. While the direction it takes may be surprising, it is not necessarily positive. It will most likely cause many readers to not want to even finish the book as it goes off in an unnecessarily fantastical direction. I was almost one of those readers. Of all the ways this story could have developed, Smith’s direction seems the most unlikely and unpredictable. While I totally respect an author who is willing to take the road less traveled, in this instance it seems to have led to a galactic wilderness of ridiculousness. I mean, given the story’s trajectory, it could have written itself after the first two hundred pages. Instead, it takes a detour and abruptly self-destructs.
All that being said, I like G.F. Smith’s writing style, and I totally respect him for taking a risk; in this case, it just doesn’t seem to work for me. However, “Smartbrain” is the first volume in a series, so maybe the story will be salvaged in the second half. I really do hope so because a lot of work went into “Smartbrain.” G.F. Smith also has the potential to be an excellent Indy futurist and technology writer.
In the end, I gave “Smartbrain” 4 out of 5 stars. I really would like to give it more because there are so many things this book does right. In many ways, “Smartbrain” by G.F. Smith is an example of everything Indy fiction should be. This is one of the few times in a review that I wish I could spoil the story in order to explain just how off the rails it goes. However, “Smartbrain” is worth reading if you like sci-fi and have the time. The fact that there is still a second volume of the series not yet published also makes me hold out hope.