Friday, May 16, 2014

Crypto-fiction review: Kronos Rising

Kronos Rising
Max Hawthorne
Far From the Tree Press
542pp.
2013 (updated edition)

"Creature" novels usually have two faults: the hand-waving of the science and the inability of the author to keep our attention when the creature is off stage.  Hawthorne's novel succeeds on the second count and certainly tries on the first.
So to give the good news first, Hawthorne can write. Some of his characters (the two-fisted lawman, the woman scientist) are tropes of this genre, but Hawthorne writes them colorfully and sure-footedly. Everyone has an interesting backstory, which helps us cheer on the heroes and slightly humanizes the villains.  (One odd note here: the novel's repeated reference to champion fencers being national figures and having a professional tour is so weird I assume Hawthorne means it as a kind of running gag.) 
Hawthorne knows the sea, and the ocean scenes are authentic and suspenseful.  We spend time on several ships, and all of them are described in interesting detail.  We feel the rocking of the waves and smell the salt air. 
Finally, Hawthorne is good at plotting and pacing. The book races along, and only the drawn-out climax seems too long. 
So it's eminently readable. The science needs some work.
SPOILERS
Hawthorne's villain is an evolved species of kronosaur, close to a hundred feet long . It's common for authors using extinct creatures to postulate that evolution over millions of years has left them bigger, smarter, and in this case, with the ability of echolocation, and that all falls under the heading of speculative fiction as long as the critter is at least possible.
It bothered me to see a baleen whale echolocate. This and some other liberties with the science are things that could have been revised (e.g., if it's the wrong habitat for a colossal squid, good old Architeuthis would do)  or written around. 
The knonosaurs' survival to the present is incomplete: Hawthorne presents a story that puts two kronosaurs in a volcanic cone after the K-T asteroid impact, but the next 65 million years is a bit fuzzy. However, he gets credit for trying, because a lot of "survival" novelists really don't.
None of the nitpicks will bother anyone looking for a fun read, because Kronos Rising delivers on the fun: it has plenty of plot twists, roller-coaster suspense, colorful characters, and action.  On that score, I got my money's worth.

10 comments:

Max Hawthorne said...
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Max Hawthorne said...
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kenneyboy82 said...

Amazing~spend my life in paleontology and have the pleasure and honor to know the top paleontologists world wide~Kronos Rising was so incredible and so well researched it gives me great pleasure to call Max Hawthorne "one of us"...Liopleurodon was that big and bigger!..maybe a little "Paleo-101" is in order before you go making statments like that bro'=aloha from Kauaii

Neha Kapoor said...

I really appreciate your good post...

Thank You So Much

World Tech News

Matt Bille said...
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Matt Bille said...

Max, thanks for taking the time to weigh in. You needn't accuse me of relying on Wikipedia: that one stings a bit :) I'm not trying to sell you a book here, but if you've read any of my nonfiction you know that, like yourself, I put a lot of effort into this. Yes, I could have been more measured in areas where there is some room for doubt, so I apologize if I seemed a bit harsh. There are some cases where you pushed boundaries. We still don't know of any mysticetes that echolocate. We know humpbacks issue clicks under certain conditions, but that may simply be another communications channel. No one has heard blue whales click at all. No marine reptiles that we know show the skull adaptations we see in echolocating mammals, although I do agree that, if they spent 65 million years evolving, it's not beyond the pale that echolocation could evolve separately. I admit I'm pickier than most readers on the science. Putting colossal squid and kelp forests off Florida takes away from my enjoyment. As to the reptiles themselves, Dr. Darren Naish, a well-informed man on this, writes that estimates of maximum size for marine reptiles are trending down, not up: Liopleurodon, for example, is at most 15m and may have been shorter, and nothing else seems to have been as large. I realize there is some room for disagreement on topics like how smart or emotional a reptilian predator could be.
You have written a very entertaining novel with good characters, interesting technology, and lots of action and plot twists. I congratulate you. I wish you best of luck on your next book.
http://darrennaish.blogspot.com/2006/07/life-in-oxford-clay-sea.html
http://nova.newcastle.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/uon:12164

Not A Hero said...

I was initially on the fence about taking a chance on this book when it came up as a suggestion on Amazon since I am an avid reader of sea "monster" stories. However, after I read Matt's original review linked from his Cryptofiction group, I actually found myself for sure wanting to read Kronos Rising; I thought the review was fair and nourishing, actually. It engaged me enough to make the "buy" decision. I honestly don't understand the author's rebuttal to what I think is a healthy criticism. Book reviews are supposed to be an honest assessment of only what one reader thinks, while calling free attention to the book itself. This is all the author can expect. The review wasn't bad, it had pros and cons. To the author, I say, to feel seething resentment towards someone who is giving free publicity for your profit is unfair... Please do not get caught up in neither criticism or praise, but just enjoy the fact that the book is getting noticed. As a writer, you will always be faced with criticism, but it is up to you what you take away from it; it doesn't have to be something negative. It is much more valuable for you to look at the strengths of what his review brings for your book (and there was several provided) and be thankful for that. How you handle public reactions, well, that has weight with people, so maybe just remember that there are many people like me that actually wanted to read your book BASED on his review.

Jérémy Alary said...

I've not appreciated the size exagerration of the kronosaur-like monster in it, as Mr. Hawthorne presented it as somewhat factual.

I have nothing against exagerrating a bit extinct creatures, but not to that extend.

Steve Alten did not exagerrate his Megalodons that far (somewhat he even underestimated their body mass, far too light even conservatively).

Especially, pliosaurs were already huge enough, there was no need to exagerate them. After, still too much people will believe they were really that large. Just like some people believe Godzilla did really exist (yes, truly).

A good read as pure fiction, but based on bad science, no better than some mockumentaries on Discoveries.

Matt Bille said...

Godzilla? Really? Wow.

ted said...

No this book is not well researched and top paleontologists don't care about it.

In terms of science, Jurassic World looks like a scientific teamwork compared to Kronos Rising.