Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Short Story with a Great Plot

The Black Tea Experiments by Ray Atkinson (pgs. 152 American Books) was sent to me by Lea, from Spotlight Publicity. Thanks Lea! It is only 152 pages, and is described by the author as an "airplane" that can be read during a routine airplane trip.

As the book opens, we meet Brent Johnson. He seems like an average college student, except he is on his way to the Ukraine for 10 days. And he is fluent in Russian. He is searching for the infamous Dr. Rostov, a mysterious man with known Russian mafia connections and for his involvement with something known as the "Black Tea Experiments". Although everyone in the city of Sevastopal KNOWS of Dr. Rostov, no one can tell Brent where he is. The trail is cold and he has to go back to the US without any answers.

Logan Bauer is also a college student at the University of Central Illinois. Logan is on scholarship to the university, having won a science fair when he was in high school. With a little hard work and an incredibly brilliant scientific mind, Logan designed and created a digital imagining telescope that uses a new technology that he calls binary refraction. It is such an impressive feat, that scientists from NASA have traveled to Iowa just to see it. And it was Logan's ticket to college. He now has it mounted on a building near his dorm so he can scan the heavens for new images.

But one day, he goes to retrieve the images and notices the telescope had slipped out of position and was pointing at the street. A waste of imaging, he's afraid, until he hears the news. The body of college student Brent Johnson has been found along the same street his telescope was recording images. Brent was shot twice in the head and his kidney was removed. What if Logan has recorded the murder on his telescope??

Let me just begin by saying I don't generally like short stories or "Novellas". I prefer novels because it seems like the character development is much better, as is the plot. And I have to admit, I would have liked "more" with this book. The plot was fantastic, and the idea of "The Black Tea Experiments" is a really interesting one. I was fascinated by the concept. Although Atkinson did a good job with a complete story, I still would have liked more. It was sparsely written, but not in a bad way. Atkinson knew what he wanted to get across to the readers. And he did that. He created a nifty little thriller in a very small package. If you like shorter tales, this one is definitely for you. Personally, I would have liked to see more, but that's just my opinion. 3.75/5


jean pierre said...

very cool description of the premise! thanks.

it sounds very interesting indeed - although, like you, i prefer something a little more fully-realised...

iliana said...

I have an ARC of this book too and like you what intrigued me the most was the concept of "airplane" book. I tend to prefer novels over novellas/short stories so we'll see how this goes. I enjoyed your review!

Dewey said...

Hi Stephanie,
Susan was asking about your book choices for the blogroll game prizes. Do you have any in mind?