Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: The Boy from Reactor 4

Кит approves! Or rather, he would if he could read.
I bought an e-book this week.

You may think what's the big deal here? but this is huge in our household.

I never buy books anymore. Unless it's a textbook, it's an absolutely pointless way to spend money. For example, this year I set a goal to read a certain number of books.

125, to be exact.

And as of March 28th, I've finished 64 books.

I can't read slow. And since I'm in Ukraine right now, there are no convenient visits to the library and armfuls of checked-out reading material to be had. When I arrived here with my Kindle I would periodically buy things to read on but really, what was the point? A day or three later, I'd be done with the book, probably never to read it again. Then I discovered that a lot of classic literature is free on Amazon. I began devouring the works of Bram Stoker and Jules Verne but there are only so many noble quests you can take before you start craving some trashy modern literature (whether it be fiction or non).

Enter Amazon's Top 100 Free Ebooks.

I live off this list now. There are almost 800 books currently in my Kindle account, probably 99% of them free purchases. If you aren't familiar with this list, it's updated every hour with the bestselling free ebooks. Some of them are rubbish- Learn to Make $1000 a Day by Doing Headstands in Your Spare Time!- but often bigger, better books will be on that list, offering themselves for free in hopes of garnering more attention and reader reviews. This week I even downloaded The DiVinci Code, that massive chart buster from days gone by. J.A. Konrath, one of the greatest gruesome horror novelists, usually has a free book or two lurking among the top free 100. You'll see Pride and Prejudice next to Titantic with Zombies (not a bad read, btw!). There have been a slew of Antarctica-themed books over the past few weeks: Antarctica + killer rats, Antarctica + drinking water espionage, iceberg + frozen monster in the ice. I read a book about Anne Boleyn, another about a recovering English heroin addict, and a biography of a child actress. Apart from the price (zero!!!), that's the greatest thing about the list- the variety. Do check it out, if you haven't already!

Okay, so now you can understand why I never buy books. The cost of 64 books in 3 months? Yikes! It's better to just stick to the Top 100 Free list. It had actually been a year since I paid money for a book.

I did buy a book several days ago and I'm so, so glad I did.

It's called The Boy from Reactor 4 and it was a breathless ride from start to finish. Something about it just called to me from its innocuous listing on the Top 100 Paid. Maybe it was fate that caused me to hit 'Buy Now with 1-Click' instead of adding it to the long "Books to Check Out from the Library Someday" list.
Here's my review-

Reading a book that features your stomping grounds can go one of two ways; either the author gets all the details right down to the local accent and last blade of grass, or you read an obviously-cobbled-together-from-Wikipedia version of your city/country. Bravo to Orest Stelmach for getting it all right in his new novel The Boy from Reactor 4! The last ten years of my life have been lived in Alaska, Ukraine, and Siberia, three of the locations featured in the story, and he paints life as it is in those places. I'd swear the characters are real people pulled off the streets.  The locations, from the backroads of the Siberian tundra to the caves of Pechersk Lavra in Kiev, are laid out brilliantly before the reader. And the storyline is so rich, so dramatic, and so far out there that it ends up being entirely possible. This novel is going to be one of the greatest vicarious adventures you can live in 2013!

The author was born to Ukrainian immigrants so it's no small wonder that he's so accurate with his tale. Also cool, I noticed that on his Amazon page he's pledged to donate 50% of his March royalties to Children of Chernobyl International and 10% of his royalties after that. The e-book is only $5, a bargain for such quality entertainment.

Here's the plot synopsis from Amazon-

Nadia's memories of her father are not happy ones. An angry, secretive man, he died when she was thirteen, leaving his past shrouded in mystery. When a stranger claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe, she agrees to meet him only to watch the man shot dead on a city sidewalk. With his last breath, he whispers a cryptic clue, one that will propel Nadia on a high-stakes treasure hunt from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. There she meets an unlikely ally: Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl. Physically and emotionally scarred by radiation syndrome, Adam possesses a secret that could change the world if she can keep him alive long enough to do it. A twisting tale of greed, secrets, and lies, The Boy from Reactor 4 will keep listeners guessing until the final heart-stopping conclusion

I'm assuming you read this blog not because you love me and my cat (sorry, Кит) but rather because you're interested in all things Ukraine.

So, if you like Ukraine... 
and you like to read...

And please drop me a line in the comments once you've read it. What do you think of it? : )


  1. "I'm assuming you read this blog not because you love me and my cat (sorry, Кит)"

    I read this blog solely for Кит

    1. Haha, I knew you'd say that :p
      You know, his birthday is coming up. There will probably be a post about it- Кит's year in review or something...