Kings of Earth by Joe Ponder (Book Review)
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A Life Devoid of Fiction
Fiction was my everyday reading, and Science Fiction was usually my pick. I love Sci-Fi. Futuristic, robotic, technological stories are my go-to. Throw in some catastrophic dystopian events, and I am sold. Unfortunately, my life has been lacking in novels for a while. It's not that I had turned my back on Fiction, I was too busy. I didn't have the time. I had thesis papers to write and Nonfiction anthologies to annotate. In my youth, I read all kinds of fiction books, for all ages. But once I went off to college, my majors revolved around theories and commentaries which left little space for novels. Now 5 years after my final days of coursework, I'm changing my tune.
A New Normal
About three months into my #yearofblackbooks project, independent author Joe Ponder emailed me. He asked if I would read and review his new novel, Kings of Earth. I was shocked that anyone would want me to do anything and had a tiny freak out moment. A REQUEST!!! What if I read his book and hated it? What he hated my review? I hadn't read a novel in quite a while and wasn't sure I was ready for a "black" novel, whatever that means. Of course, I said yes, because who was I to turn down a reading opportunity.
About a week or so later, I was able to buy Ponder's book and there it sat, on my shelf. I was already reading a book or maybe putting it off. Whatever the case, I didn't read it right away. Somewhere around a month later, I finally got around to it. And I'm really glad I did. I absolutely enjoyed this book.
First, A Rocky Start...
It took me a few tries to start because the prologue is front-loaded with information. It became a bit overwhelming at first because I don't always have space to focus. I needed to sit with the content and was a little worried the whole book would be too dense to enjoy. Yes, Ponder gives you a lot of background information before the story gets going-but it's just the setup.
And Then... So Much Awesomeness!
Once you get past the prologue, buckle in for non-stop action. This well thought-out adventure is descriptive and imaginative. I felt like I was watching a movie with all the snazzy dialogue and location changes. I had a very clear image who the characters were, what they looked like, and where the action took place. I wanted so much more Leo and Iris. Really, I wanted more of everything (including a little internal monologue but I bet that would have slowed the pace some).
Ponder calls himself as a "military brat,"or someone who grew up with a military family. He applied that to his advantage in every way with this narrative. Military jargon was constantly present but easily accessible. The "featured image" for this post is inspired by his characters and their military history. (Don't make fun of my 8lbs, can you read and workout???) Maybe it's all the action movies that already use the military troupe, but I felt knowledgeable of the environment and the people in it.
Characters in Color
Joe Ponder made a point to feature diverse characters. His own heritage is a mix of cultures, so writing what you know is always encouraged. When trying to build a literary world that holds a place for everyone, especially people of color, this book is a start. It's easy to talk about people being of different nations, but Ponder took us to those places and used his story to tell us what they looked like. Although I felt some characteristics where generalized, or stereotypical, I really loved that there were multiple people of each racial background.
And, dare I say, I wish this was a trilogy or multi book series? There is so much packed into this 289-page novel that he could have expanded this world three fold! His book is even broken up into sections and so he had clear stopping points. He is mesmerizing with his descriptions and more of it could have been added to enhance the story. I wanted an occasional stop in the dialogue for the characters to breathe and mentally process what was going on.
Technological? Check. Robots? Check. Futuristic society with diversity and teamwork. You got it. Kings of Earth is the first real novel I've read in a long time, and it's good. As I mentioned in my last post, I NEEDED to read more fiction. By writing about and exploring fictional themes, we're able to learn more about ourselves and find creative ways to talk about our society. Plus, it's fun. It's artistic and innovative, and sometime, you get to read about a messed up future filled with diversity and robots!