Book Review: The Apollo Illusion

Happy New year bookworms! It is 2019 :)!! How did everyone do on their reading challenges? Did you have a reading challenge? Mine was to read 30 books in 2018 and I managed to read 34 so that was fun. This year, my goal is to read 50 books so hopefully, I can pull it off.

Today I have a new book review from our external reviewer Chris Connors. He finished this one before the holidays started but I was busy with traveling and visiting with family and friends so this will be our first review of 2019.

This one is called The Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin and seems very interesting. I believe it is sci-fi but let’s see what Chris had to say about it!

Apollo Illusion_front cover_final

Published Date: May 19, 2018

Publisher: BookBooks Publishing LLC

Synopsis: The year is 2150 and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden. 

When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.

The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world.

This is a Young Adult genre. I am not the target audience for that genre. I do not get lost in teen angst and burgeoning love stories so I tend to notice plot holes instead of overlooking them due to a flood of raging hormones. I do read YA though (Darkest Minds, Hunger Games, Newsfeed, all in recent months).

So, I dived into Shari Lopatin’s book, and found myself enjoying it more than I expected. The technical writing, grammar, and sentence structure are polished. Her bio says she’s worked as a freelance writer, and all that practice has paid off in terms of a solid technical skill set.

Then there’s the story itself. I started the book at bedtime thinking I’d read 20-30 minutes before sleep. At the 70% mark, I forced myself to put the book down and go to sleep. I have an almost religious devotion to maintaining the same sleep schedule to avoid chronic insomnia that plagues my siblings. Having me voluntarily disrupt my schedule for a book means the author has written a good yarn.

Initially, the story didn’t grab me. I’m still not sure why. Maybe the first part had been overly edited and now felt rehearsed, a bit sterile, too technically perfect? But in a short time, the story pulled me in as the questions began to build. I don’t know if the writing changed or if I adjusted to the style. Either way, the book wouldn’t let me go.

The chapters are narrated in first-person by the two main characters, a technique which greatly contributed to my sleep deprivation; I had to keep reading so I could find out what was happening to the other character when they were separated.

The story kept a strong pace with nicely timed slowdowns building to crescendos. The flow was almost classical in nature where fast and slow movements in a symphony build to a final satisfying finale (think Beethoven, Mozart). The ending did resolve many of the questions that Flora had raised, and it seems some of the things left unanswered would provide fertile ground for continuing with the Apollo saga (please continue!).

Some plot points puzzled me as they went against human nature. We’re told most citizens of Apollo haven’t seen the Wall that protects them. Why not? They were highly educated in arts and sciences yet seemed rather lacking in curiosity except for a small handful. Highly educated goes hand-in-hand with curiosity and pushing the boundaries, and even people who aren’t highly educated are curious and/or at least explore their own geographical location. These people are in the majority, whereas in the book they’re the minority despite the education levels. I had difficulty accepting that an almost ideal society would so easily let go of its urge to explore.

Also, the protagonists went outside the Wall using a tunnel and some elaborate methods to avoid detection from all the cameras. As we later find out others had left Apollo years ago. How they escaped could be for another novel, but it was strange that no-one in the community talked about the missing people with the one exception of Andrew’s dad who went missing 11 years ago. Even strangers commented on this after all these years. So why did no-one also mention other people who had also gone missing, some even more recent? Why didn’t Andrew know about others who had lost a parent or relative? If your dad mysteriously disappears when you’re 8 you’d eagerly search for similar stories in others, and others would share their stories with you.

As well I found the hackers on The Other Side lacking in certain skill sets. Maybe because the story is gripping, exciting, page-turning I shouldn’t have noticed this. Basically, one of the hackers wants to find Apollo, but can’t do so unless he gets the name of the community. My inner hacker objected to that: you do not need a name to figure out where Apollo is located especially if you’re a hacker group that is good enough to hide the people who will pay from the government itself.

They can infer Apollo is nearby. The community would leave a good-sized footprint. You can narrow down potential locations by looking at a map to figure out where you can hide a community. E.g., that nuclear waste dump next to a big abandoned city seems like a good candidate to check with a drone to see if it really is a waste dump and if the city is abandoned.

Even if the government had erased every bit of historical data about the formation and location of Apollo (that would include the name “Apollo” so getting the name doesn’t help anyway) the hackers still have access to data and communications from people so they would use pattern analyses. E.g., they could map the locations of those who send and receive messages (all people on The Other Side communicate solely by electronic means), overlay it with a map of population centers and look for spots where no communication occurs to see if those blank spots are large enough to hide a community.

And they could probably use power consumption records, census data, satellite and aerial photography (past and current), individuals’ journals, old photographs, even conspiracy theories from 75 years ago when a city population was displaced because someone “turned” it into a dump site for nuclear waste. Intelligence agencies have a vast array of pattern analyses tools, like changes in communication frequency and locations, to alert them to potential terror attacks.

If there are future books maybe they’ll deal with those issues, as well as go into more detail what the official story was on the return of the people. The sparse details given explain why the two main characters were back, but wouldn’t seem to fit the others who returned. Also, why isn’t medical technology as advanced in Apollo as it is in The Other Side? I understand avoiding some of the items that led to almost virtual enslavement in the past, but if you’re building a paradise wouldn’t you want advanced medicine? Again, that could be something for future books.

Regardless, these points didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. If I had started this book earlier in the evening, I would have read it in one sitting. I hope Lopatin continues with the story of Apollo, Flora, and Andrew. I want to know what will happen next.

Book Rating: 4/5 stars.

You can buy the book on Amazon, find it on Goodreads and check out the author at her website!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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