Rating: 4 stars
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When their small colony was destroyed, Anderson’s sister saved him. By escaping into the shuttle, twelve-year-old Anderson was the sole survivor of the entire colony. The shuttle was programmed to reach its next destination in ten long years. While waiting to arrive, terrified and alone, Anderson creates rules and his own world through electronics. He creates holograms that grow, evolve, become his life line, and in some ways are an extension of himself. When the holograms themselves create a new hologram, Alpha, to ease Anderson’s loneliness, the best of intentions can go astray.
When Anderson’s shuttle finally reaches its destination, Anderson meets C.J. and becomes immediately attached to him. C.J. remains in awe of Anderson for Anderson’s holo-programming is far superior to what anyone has seen. As C.J. and his sister go through the years of recordings taken on the shuttle, they uncover exactly what Anderson needed to do, and at times endure, in order to survive. And, spending so much time with only holograms, Anderson cannot tell what is real and what isn’t.
C.J. knows he needs to keep things professional with Anderson, but he is the only one Anderson trusts, the only person he will allow to care for him when he screams in the dark of night. For Anderson to be truly free and to move forward with a relationship with C.J., he must first confront reality and he must confront Alpha.
This was quite a unique story that was put together. Anderson was able to see out the window of his shuttle and is able to see his entire colony, family, and friends destroyed. Although he has what he needs on the shuttle to survive physically, as a young boy he has to survive emotionally and psychologically. The first part of the book was interesting as it shows Anderson creating his world aboard the shuttle. He creates holograms, friends who become his family. He creates a school, a teacher, and entertainment. He becomes quite skilled at programming and the holograms evolve and mature just as Anderson does. Alpha was created to become Anderson’s boyfriend, but true to his name, likes to take control and he wants control over Anderson.
During the next portion of the book, Anderson, his shuttle, and his hologram family arrive at C.J’s home. There is an instant attraction between the two men, but Anderson, having lived for so long with only holograms, has a difficult time figuring out what is reality, though he forges an instant connection with C.J. The middle portion of the book was very slow for me. C.J and his sister spend weeks watching the playbacks of Anderson’s life on the shuttle, as it was all recorded. They spend days watching Anderson come on line as he explores his own body, which was incredibly invasive and I wasn’t sure how watching Anderson pleasure himself many times over the years was helping them figure out his mental health. Then, when life with Alpha became violent for Anderson, C.J. and his sister then spend days crying and being physically ill as they watch the playbacks. They were supposed to be the best and brightest on the planet and when Anderson begins to unravel, C.J. needed to be sedated right along with Anderson. At times, their professional skills seemed to be lacking. Alpha was also an issue as I was not given enough information as to how a hologram could have physical relations with and also be able to leave marks of abuse on a human.
Where the book excelled was between the relationship between C.J and Anderson. There is a real connection between the two of them and their time alone together was filled with heat and emotion. The author also did a great job of showing how attached Anderson was to his holographic family and the toll it took on him when he could no longer be part of their lives. A Solid Core of Alpha is a futuristic tale of survival and love that is worth a look.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.