Protocol 7 grabbed my attention by the professional looking cover and the descriptive blurb, “The year is 2039, and technology runs every aspect of daily life. AI is omnipresent, so secrets are next to impossible to keep. A cryptic message makes its way to Simon Fitzpatrick, a brilliant Oxford professor living in London. The content of the message changes everything for Simon, as it suggests that Simon's beloved father Oliver, believed to be dead for weeks, might actually be alive. Simon believes it is evidence that his father is being held captive, in one of the most remote areas of the world -- Antarctica. Antarctica has now become forbidden territory with the passing of Protocol 7. So, Simon assembles a team of his brightest friends and colleagues to find Oliver and make the impossible journey to the bottom of the world, desperately attempting to avoid modern-day surveillance along the way. The cryptic message is just the tip of the iceberg for Simon and his team, as the mystery behind Oliver's disappearance is bigger than any of them could fathom.”
The book’s author, Armen Gharabegian, has a masters degree not in English, but in science, and designs furniture for a living. His education does provide a clue as to how he wrote Protocol 7, but more on that later. At this point his life, Gharabegian felt like not only did he have a story to tell, but that story was worthy of a trilogy. I’ll never know how the second two books unfold, as the author is still writing them, and it was tough enough to get through the first one. The rest of the review comes in the form of helpful advice for independent authors looking to improve their writing.
First up, don’t write your book in third-person omniscient. This style of writing -- in which the narrator knows all the details about all the characters and all the environments -- should be reserved for writers who feel that they hold all the power, all the knowledge, and it is their job to explain to you, in excruciating detail, every fact, background, history and tiny little detail that you, the reader, who is far too stupid to figure it out for yourself (this is not a good thing; don’t do it). Writing in third-person omniscient removes much of the mystery and suspense that a good story can have. It also does not provide any respect to the reader. Readers are not stupid and they don’t need everything little thing spelled out. It’s OK to leave some facts in the dark, this helps build suspense and mystery.
Not all third-person omniscient novels suffer from revealing too many details; in those cases the author is wise enough to hold back details that can leave the audience wondering what will happen next. Protocol 7 is an excellent example of how to do third-person omniscient wrong. There were far too many times while reading this book that I predicted what was to come next. The author was telegraphing his moves like an amateur boxer. I saw the punches coming before he even threw them. A far better means to writing a novel is to use the third-person limited point of view, in which the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character, while other characters are presented only externally.
Second up, leave the details at home. Readers don’t need to know the slope of the angle was at a precise degree, or that it took 30 seconds to change clothes, or that it took 10 seconds to park the car. When exact details like this start to pile up in a paragraph, it gets tedious, fast. This kind of exact detail with numbers most likely stems from the author’s background in science; it’s what he’s used to on a daily basis -- but in writing novels -- it’s not really necessary. Plus, every single noun does not need an adjective, let alone two or three adjectives. That can get very tiring for the reader as well. Finally, if you harp on a particular character having a certain object over and over throughout the story, you’re pretty much letting the reader know there’s something about that object that’s going to come in play later in the story, and when it does, the surprise is gone and what does happen is exactly what you thought was going to happen.
I don’t want to be overly critical of the book. After all, if Gharabegian had a professional publishing house backing him, many of his tedious passages would have been edited out. And I’m guessing the trilogy would have been cut down to a single book. After all, the first third of the book is gathering the companions, the second third is reaching the destination and the final third is all about the rescue. It’s predictable and lacks imagination. That’s not to say that Gharabegian wrote a boring book. It does hold plenty of action and the technology described in the book sounds marvelous. It’s just that Protocol 7 suffers from being overwritten. It was a struggle to finish the book and I really don’t plan on reading the second two books in the series.
If you get tempted to buy this book based on the cover and the blurb, then at least let this review be your warning. If you look at Amazon, Protocol 7 has nine 5-star reviews and a single 3-star review. My money says the 5-star reviews were written by friends and family.