Review of Damaged Beyond All Recognition

See full issue for 2018 06-18

The Rundown

In the early 1970s, counterculture writer Paul Tomenko is a rising star who has it all: a huge fan base, a supportive publisher, and a brand-new diploma from University of Colorado. But at a cost. He had to give up the love of his life, Maggie Mae Monahan, so she could pursue her goal of becoming the “world’s best geneticist.” Heartbroken, Paul heads for the seclusion of the mountains only to have a fatal(-ish) car crash. In death, he has a run-in (literally) with God before being whisked back into his body to continue with his life.

In a twist of fate—there are many in this book–Paul’s publisher hires the woman who caused his accident to be his secretary. Allie Briarsworth is an aspiring writer with unnaturally sensitive intuition. Of course, they fall in love, putting Paul in an awkward position, having sworn eternal fidelity to Maggie Mae.

Because of his run in with God, Paul is chosen to solve a problem God has: Human souls aren’t moving on in the afterlife. With no souls moving up to higher Planes of Existence (POEs), no one has reached the highest plane, meaning there are no candidates to take God’s place when the time comes. And it’s coming fast.

Paul, Allie, and Maggie Mae have to join forces to unravel the mystery and restore order to the universe.

If solving that metaphysical quandary sounds like a tall order, adding in two romances, a love triangle, space aliens, Neanderthals, and a whole bunch of 70s and 80s pop culture references to the mix makes it even more challenging. Felyk manages to juggle all of that into a coherent narrative, but the overall effect is of too many balls in the air to keep them all going. Although none are dropped, the pacing is uneven and clunky. Elaborate and critical plot points that need detail and depth are glossed over, while more obvious but less important subplots are rehashed in detail.

Felyk’s take on what goes on from the time of one Big Bang until the universe collapses in on itself and starts all over–or what’s supposed to go on but didn’t, in this case–is thought- and laugh-provoking. A focused editing effort to reduce redundancy, keep the important details front-and-center, and eliminate some unnecessary subplots and unimportant characters would take this story from good to great.

The Recommendation

Readers who enjoy science fiction with a humorous and slightly irreverent bent will enjoy this fun tale with a unique take on metaphysics, cosmology, and religion. The universe and characters Felyk has created are thought- and laugh-provoking. The sometimes convoluted and unevenly paced plot might hinder those looking for a fast, easy read.

The Rating Selected as a Top Pick!

Top Pick! 5 Stars (out of five): Freaking amazing. Any agent or publishing house that passed this one up made a big mistake. It was selected by our reviewer as a personal favorite. This is also a nomination for our Novel of the Year award.

The Pros & Cons

Pros: Characterization, Dialogue, Plot, Strong World-Building
Cons: Plot Sometimes Jumpy, Slow in Places

The Links

More about Damaged Beyond All Recognition on UBR

The Reviewer

Lynne Hinkey

Visit Lynne Hinkey‘s website.

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