Review: ‘The Midas Effect’ by Manuel Dorado

(translated by Laura Fitzgerald)

Genre: science fiction/technothriller

Description: extract from Amazon: “Miguel Le Fablec, a young European university professor, appears to have the ability to turn his imagination into reality – the so-called Midas Effect. Unaware of his power, Miguel attracts the attention of the CIA and NASA, which take him to the US and draw him into international intrigues, scientific projects and secret services operations that overwhelm his reaction capacity. Everyone wants to control and use him.”

Author: Manuel Dorado has a background in the area in which he has set this, his first novel. Not the CIA. Hopefully. But he is an aerospace engineer. His short fiction in Spanish has won awards, and been included in a number of magazines. This is his first novel and, I think, his first translated work.

Laura Fitzgerald translated the novel. She has retained excellent page-turning quality and the English is supple and effective.

Appraisal: This is an unusual novel in several ways. I like unusual, which is why I was drawn to it in Big Al’s looong list of indie books looking for reviews.

For a start, it was written in Spanish and has been published in translation. So from the outset this British reader is getting a different worldview. Spanish is not constructed anything like English. A book has to be well constructed to withstand such a sea change without reading as stilted. For this reason, I don’t usually seek out translated literature or poetry. But I had already become intrigued by this novel before realising. Still, I like being outside my literary comfort zone. It’s why I review indie books, because they are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. So with this.

The premise is a simple one, but one which I have not come across before in science fiction: what if you could influence events so as to have the outcome you want every time. We can all imagine ourselves having that ability, so although it is definitely fiction about science it also snuggles up warmly to the reader, as the concept is eminently graspable. What would we do with that ability? Could we control it? How would we control it? And, most importantly (as the blurb considers) what would The Powers That Be do with a person with such a gift?

I like the way certain characteristics of the people inhabiting the book are reinforced each time they take centre stage. Castillo fiddles with his tie, Gorlov has an endless supply of cheap pens which he deconstructs while he thinks. Everyone has a tic. Physical descriptions of the characters really worked for me, as with this: “Fred smiled. His Anglo-Saxon features compressed with the action, his eyes almost disappearing between cavernous wrinkles.” The descriptions are pithy and insightful, reinforcing characterisation, motivation and action. This enables the protagonists to think in really rather subtle ways. Indeed, the imagery throughout the book is a delight. I also like the lightly worn knowledge of the geographical settings that Dorado uses, in the USA, Europe and the Middle East.

So much for the characterisation, what of the plot? There is plenty of that too, despite the ‘inflection’ taking place, inevitably, inside the head of the Midas. There is danger, and chases; allies turn out to be enemies and vice versa. The page turning quality is excellent.

And, finally, it has a twist at the end which I did not see coming (and I almost always see the twist coming).

Recommended.

Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed.

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