Jump Start, by Gary Carter

Jump Start, by Gary Carter coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: America House
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: one star
Book Review by S. Fazekas

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Carter advertises his work as “the book that brings it all together”, but frankly it’s hard to see just what “it” is. The premise behind Jump Start is interesting; aliens have used Earth as a food source for dragons. The aliens have bred the dragons from dinosaurs. About 9000 years ago, the dragons have enabled humanity to make the leap from semi-intelligent hunters and gatherers to modern Homo sapiens by eating virtually everything in sight.

Unfortunately the premise is the only interesting feature of this book. Carter’s plot is not convincing. The story opens with one of the protagonists, Jacob Malfusco, finding a complete and remarkably well-preserved dragon skeleton in Death Valley. Another of the main characters, Marsha Kimbrough, finds a complete Egyptian pyramid buried in sand near Ayers Rock in Australia. Next, a meteor swarm headed directly for earth is observed outside the orbit of the planet Jupiter.

The meteors appear to be guided by some powerful force, and all land in Earths’ oceans. Apparently the meteors are eggs of a sort as from them appear the dragons, which promptly eat just about everything of any appreciable size in the oceans. They then make their way to land where they lay waste to civilization and eat up to 80 percent of the earth’s population. Humanity is relatively powerless; the dragons are fast, intelligent and have chameleon-like abilities that make them hard to see. Just as the dragons are about to finish off the remnants of humanity, huge alien robot spacecraft appear. They collect the dragons and leave earth in ruins.

There are so many loose ends in the plot that to go into them here would take far too long. Neither an explanation of why the aliens have bred the dragons, nor why the aliens need them to metabolize terrestrial proteins is given. Kimbrough does advance her Jump Start theory, but no proof of this theory is offered. Most of the characters simply accept it. A story arc about a young Japanese girl rescuing and befriending a wounded dragon is introduced about a third of the way into the story–but is not mentioned again until the very end, and appears to have no role within the larger story. No motivations or explanations for certain character actions are given, which only added to my confusion and disbelief.

Carter’s science is unrealistic to the point of ridiculous. A complete dragon skeleton (with skin and scales!) is discovered in a place renowned for its complete lack of fossils. Several million meteors impact the earth’s oceans simultaneously–and beyond a few ripples in the ocean’s surface, nothing much seems to happen. From the meteors, about 15 million dragons hatch and in the space of a few weeks eat every large ocean creature there is. The dragons then come to dry land and in the space of a few hours transform from water-breathing, swimming creatures to air-breathing, walking and flying creatures. Oh, and they breathe fire, too. About the size of a bus, the dragons are nevertheless able to camouflage themselves so well that modern military weaponry is no match for dragon teeth, claws and fire. The list goes on.

Carter’s characters are cliched, flat and full of stereotypes. The two main protagonists fall in love and are married. In the midst of an alien invasion and the destruction of civilization as we know it, these two go on diets, wish for children and carry on with one another in completely unrealistic and unbelievable ways. The President of the United States is a caricature of any B-movie world leader. His dialog actually had me laughing out loud at times. The Hispanic husband of Marsha’s daughter sounds like a bad Ricardo Montalban impersonation.

Finally, the prose, grammar and style of the writing itself are amateur at best. Carter uses words like “annoyment” and “unexplainable”. Run-on sentences and awkward constructions abound. A particularly annoying technique Carter uses to introduce minor characters is to provide a description of the individual as he or she speaks, then several lines later simply pop in a name in the apparent belief the reader will understand who is who. One character is named “the distinguished British astrophysicist”–but a name is never given in this person’s case, or an explanation as to why he or she is so distinguished. Another character is “a striking Asian lady”–whom is she striking, and why? He refers to the Navy Chief of Naval Operations as “the Navy Chief of Staff”. Everyone is described as “quite” something–“quite attractive”, “quite loud” or “quite young”.

I found Jump Start a laborious read. It’s hard to recommend this book to any particular group of readers. Fans of science fiction will not buy Carter’s technology or physics. Fantasy readers will have a hard time believing the dragons or Carter’s attempt to explain the Jump Start theory. And anyone who appreciates good writing would do well to give this book a miss.

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