The Greenhouse Conspiracy, by John W. Dowdee

the-greenhouse-conspiracy-by-john-w-dowdee coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: iUniverse
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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Among print-on-demand publishing houses, these are some that seem to turn out better books than other. iUniverse is one such company. IMO, a couple of the books I’ve read by iUniverse are as good as books I’ve read put out by ‘real’ publishers. This is in contrast to books from 1st Library. So far, I haven’t had much luck with them.

The Greenhouse Conspiracy is from iUniverse, so I had a glimmer of hope that when I started it, it wouldn’t make me want to slit my throat before I was done. My hope was partially fulfilled. The Greenhouse Conspiracy is a cut above the average POD book I get, but still falls fairly short of being ready for prime time.

Imagine a nice juicy burger with all the trimmings. Tasty, grilled to perfection, crisp lettuce, fresh tomato… the first few bits go down nice, and then…. Gristle. One of the tiny, hard knotty things that tries to relocate one of your teeth. You remove it and resume your meal. More gristle. That’s sort of like The Greenhouse Conspiracy.

There are some sections of the book that are really tasty. The writing flows, the action is fast, the events are exciting… and then there’s the rest.

His plane damaged by lightening, Luke thinks he’s lucky to find what appears to be an airfield in a remote section of the Rocky Mountains. He gets the plane on the ground without incident and inadvertently (and unknowingly at the time) stumbles upon what turns out to be the headquarters of a group of environmental terrorists bent on remaking the world. Their aims seem altruistic, but their methods cause the death of thousands of innocents.

That was one of the biggest problems I had with the whole set-up. Why would the terrorists make themselves known and make their rather silly demands? Dowdee emphasizes the point that it’s all about money, but by controlling the weather, the bad guys have already amassed fortunes. I don’t believe for a second that they cared less about the environment. They’re pretty much running things behind the scenes already. So why the ruckus? No reason I can think of, and that’s probably the story’s greatest weakness: the explanation that Dowdee offers for bad guy behavior just doesn’t float.

In any case, Luke barely escapes from the compound, but it’s not long before he’s a hunted man, both by the terrorists and his own government. He’s accompanied by Michelle, a computer scientist who got drawn in when Luke asked her to see who had hacked his bank account. There’s also Candice, a determined Federal Emergency Management Agency employee who has published the theory that the strange weather the world has been experiencing over the last decade is not natural in origin. A cast of supporting characters rounds it all out.

Mr. Dowdee has a sure hand when it comes to action. The several fight scenes, chase scenes, and natural disasters are well done. Throughout the book though, I was constantly running into little bits of gristle. Luke is an ex-Marine. Dowdee has made him a pilot, both of fixed wing (airplanes) and rotary (helicopters). Flight training in the military is one track; either you fly planes, or you fly helicopters. You might be ABLE to fly both if you go out and get a private license, but you won’t fly both while on active duty like Dowdee has his character doing here.

Luke is fairly young as well—too young to have completed basic training, then gotten a college degree, then completed Officers Candidate School, and then completed undergraduate and graduate flight training. And by the time all that adds up, you’d owe the military a healthy chunk of time. Dowdee tempers this a bit by finally explaining why Luke got out of the service, but his justification left me unconvinced. When you owe time for training, the military doesn’t let you walk away.

Dowdee does a decent job of establishing his characters, at least the good guys, so it’s particularly noticeable when once of his main characters acts, well, out of character. He should have slowed down a bit and asked himself ‘Is this really what XXXX would do?” Sometimes I suspect the answer would have been ‘no’.

Lastly, Dowdee suffers from the same syndrome I see quite frequently among newer writers, where he writes more than he needs too. Some examples: ‘He nodded his head yes.’ Nodding already means yes (shaking means no) so this can be shortened to ‘He nodded his head.’ Now have you ever seen anyone nod anything else? No? Then we end up with ‘He nodded.’ Other examples include ‘He sat down in the chair.’ ‘He had an determined expression on his face.’ (Well? Where else would he have it?). ‘He blinked his eyes.’ Etc. You get the picture. Experience, attention to detail, and reading aloud will help get rid of these redundant constructions.

Despite the chewy piece of tendon that cropped up more often than is should have, The Greenhouse Conspiracy was not an unpleasant read. Though the plot was unbelievable, the science unconvincing, the bad guys stereotyped and over the top, and that the characterization sort of fell apart in the final few chapters, it starts strong and offers some good action.

If you like reading books by new authors, gristle and all, give it a shot. Otherwise, steer clear.

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