Inceptio is an intriguing blend of thriller, specifically the spy/espionage sub-genre, alternate reality, and a bit of drama from the standpoint of losing one’s home and being introduced to a completely new culture.
The alternate reality functions as a huge draw for the reader: how would history have changed if X instead of Y? What nuances and subtle but important details would exist in this other America (the EUS actually), or over in a Europe where WWI took over ten years to wrap up, but WWII never happened? The alternate reality created in the book functions near flawlessly: the EUS is xenophobic and paranoid, and Roma Nova is sophisticated, tough, and intriguing. Plus, Latin is still alive as a language! How cool right?
In terms of characters, there are enough to require a Dramatis Personae section at the back, but most are drawn very well, from the cool and ironic Apollodorus to the passionate and skillful Conrad. It was difficult to choose a favorite character (Aurelia was every bit the iron-willed grandmother type, though Lurio’s logical sarcasm brought out several nice chuckles), which is a hallmark of good writing.
Indeed, there were times where the reader is hooked right in, and the alternate universe functions to intrigue the reader. Karen’s descent from white collar stiff to paranoid shut-in was brilliantly handled. Other fresh, lively scenes had the hallmarks of excellent writing as well (most everything with Apollodorus was compelling, driving me to turn the pages quickly).
The graphics at Act breaks were well done, and the cover is excellent as well.
Yet there are some drawbacks.
The first and third quarters of the book move along at a nice pace, are well thought out and seem well edited, but the second and fourth quarters are filled with dragging narration that slows the pace of the book to a halt. This coincides almost perfectly with the book’s setup of Acts 1-4: Act One is cinematic, thrilling, scary, and ultimately incredible! Perfectly written. Act Two is a massive block of text that simply attempts to get the reader from Point A (resolution of Act One) to Point B (Karen and the Criminals) as quickly as possible. Act Three: Mostly incredible again, where the plot has picked back up and mostly moves along at a smooth pace. Yet again, Act Four has a couple of highlighted scenes, but mostly made me want to put the book down and possibly move to something else.
The main driving conflict fizzles a bit in Acts Two and Four. While the author tries to make the bad guy scary through short interludes from his point of view, he’s been foiled too many times and is ultimately one man against an entire government.
By the middle of the book (around 60% of the way through) I knew that Karen was going to succeed flawlessly at any task given to her. While not necessarily unrealistic, this lessened any thrill from a conflict point of view: she overcame every task as a ‘natural’. Karen became Thomas Jane in The Punisher: after the initial hardship, there was never any chance of defeat.
Lastly, Karen’s jump from newbie entrepreneur to dark superhero wasn’t believable enough.* (see below)
OVERALL: Awesome Indies lists 4 stars as ‘material that you would find in mainstream published books’ and while Inceptio comes close based on its merits, the mainstream publishing industry would not likely be forgiving about the slowing pace, the disappearance and reappearance of conflict, and the protagonist’s heroic ability to easily accomplish any physical, social, economic, linguistic, espionage, tactical or military task she sets her mind to on the first try. AIA’s 3 star rating includes books that would be recommended to buy. Fans of thrillers and alternate realities aren’t going to find a bad story here.
*SPOILER ALERT: Read below at your own risk.
After being given a news story about the drug smuggling situation in her new country, Karen’s overzealous behavior isn’t enough to risk her entire life on. After all, she’s just come into a family she loves, she’s doing an amazing business, and while her love life isn’t perfect, she has guys all over the place who want to get with her. She needs a more compelling reason to jump on the ‘undercover agent’ train.