A superhero story blending science fiction and fantasy, Paul Ellison’s novel chronicles the crime-fighting adventures of Paul Flammia.
Flammia is a not-quite-human crown prince born on Earth but living on the planet Consistorium. After his warrior mermaid wife, children and entire family (and the planet) are destroyed by invaders, he is sent back to Earth, where he awakens as a 17-year-old living in 2021 New York City.
Flammia, who can control fire and turn into smoke, then enters college, becomes a football star, rescues a closeted gay man from bullying, falls in love and saves his friends, the city and the world multiple times from a cavalcade of disasters.
The author’s introduction states that he wrote the book to “kill time” while he was ”on furlough,” presumably because of the COVID pandemic. Such statements aren’t likely to inspire confidence in readers.
The novel’s format—structured like a screenplay—is also problematic. The first page is evidence of the issues this configuration creates:
“Dean Matthews: Good morning, Paul, and welcome to Queens College. I’m Dean Matthews. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
“Paul: Likewise, sir.
“Dean Matthews: Please, call me Dean.”
There’s no description or world-building here. As the story unfolds, it also lacks character depth; Flammia, for example, has no flaws, becoming two-dimensional and boring. More of an issue, the plot jumps from one random catastrophe to another. Flammia battles a college bully (insert gay-bashing football player stereotype here), saves the passengers of a plane that has lost power, saves the planet from a comet, battles a crime lord, etc. As none of the conflicts are explored with depth or emotional complexity, the tension remains low, creating a flat read.
By trying to do too much, this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink storyline (including android/humans, mermaids, time travel, superhero crime fighters, UFOs, magic stones, etc.) accomplishes little. As a result, the novel is likely to have limited appeal for science-fiction/fantasy genre fans.
Also available as an ebook.