Containment, by Christian Cantrell Kindle $2.99
paperback $14.1725,000 copy sold as of January 2011

During a conversation with Christian Cantrell -Product Manager and Application Developer on the Adobe AIR team – at 360Flex in DC last Fall I discovered that he was a science fiction author. I’m a huge SciFi fan and couldn’t wait to read his books. I started with Containment which I’ll review here.

You can read an interview with Christian here about this book and his many other projects.

[ NO spoilers, to speak of ]

Prose

The first tool a great science fiction writer needs is the ability to write good prose. Christian’s prose isn’t just good. It’s excellent. Often I find myself needing to warm up to a writer’s style before I can read it comfortably. For instance:  switching from Orson Scott Card to Isaac Asimov takes a few chapters before I’m reading along smoothly. I didn’t find that a problem with Christian at all – and I had just finished re-reading the first four books of the Dune series.

You know how sometimes you’re reading along and have to stop and ask yourself, “Who the hell is talking here?” I never ran into that while reading Containment. The characters have distinctive names and voices. The only issue that I had was occasionally getting lost with locations within the base. The entire story takes place within the confines of a habitat and it’s hard to visualize that space when it’s being described. A map at the front of the book wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

Plot

When a story has a plot twist(s) authors have to balance between providing enough hints to make readers think back and go, “Okay, that makes since now.” as opposed to making readers feel cheated because there was no way to foresee the twist. Christian does a good balance act with this. I didn’t see the plot twist coming for probably the first third of the book. Then I started getting an itch that something wasn’t quite right. And then it came. This is all very subjective but in my opinion Christian walked precisely down that fine line.

Tech

This aspect of the story probably won’t be as appealing to the general audience as it will be to us here – programmers. Since Christian is obviously an expert programmer himself the tech in the story mostly revolves around computers and specifically software. That’s pretty rare because there just aren’t that many people who write code and prose out there.

Other reviews

I’m not the only person who liked Containment. It has a 4 out-of 5 stars at Amazon.com. Some of the reviews are positively glowing.

  • Comparable to Asimov
  • ABCs of Science Fiction: Asimov, Bradbury, Cantrell
  • Proving that writing a short, tight story is not a lost art

Reading Order

Besides Containment Christian has 4 short stories that you can download to the Kindle for just $0.99 each. If your interested in reading all of them Christian listed them in order from, “most technical to most character-driven which I believe reflects the progression of my writing.

  1. Containment
  2. Human Legacy Project
  3. Brainbox
  4. Anansi Island
  5. The Epoch Index

Note: I would suggest that you DO NOT read the product description of Containment at Amazon.com. Even though it is short it is full of spoilers.

Brainbox, by Christian CantrellKindle $.99 kindle $.99 kindle $.99 kindle $.99

FYI, If your feeling a little depressed about the state of the world and where humanity is headed then maybe you should skip over reading Human Legacy Project. It’s just a tad bit dark. ( Now that I’ve said that you’ll have to read it. )

You can read Christian’s personal blog at LivingDigitally.net where he writes about various things from Legos to publishing. Speaking of Legos you MUST check Christian’s blog microkosmic.com. Trust me. It’s hilarious.

What do you think?