The Unfortunate Expiration of David S. Sparks: Superb Speculative Fiction
William F. Aicher’s The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks immediately thrusts readers into a strange world of biotechnology, virtual reality, and post-modern political turmoil. David S. Sparks, the singular point of view throughout the story, provides readers with a window into a bleak post-apocalyptic outlook of the world, mired with chemical warfare, bioengineering mishaps, and political conspiracies. David is just as foreign to this new world as anyone who picks up this tale.
That narrative device serves as both a blessing and a curse for Aicher, for the slow introduction to the world for both reader and character creates a sometimes tedious and confusing pace at the start of the story. However, as David slowly understands the strange world that surrounds him, I, too, began to connect the dots, and by the time I finished the first third, I was along for the ride. I think anyone who latches onto the creativity of the first few pages will stick through the immediate yet understandable fog that rests upon the first portions of the story.
Sparks truly excels through its characters and setting. Whether it’s David, Bethany, the Preservationist, Alice, or even Ghost, this novel is peppered with a memorable cast. And its locales, from plasticity to the eyefields to a few other locations I won’t spoil, they build a world that’s strangely believable in its absurdity.
There’s just two aspect of the story, from a science fiction perspective, that I take issue with, that pulled me out of the believability and immersion near the end, though I won’t spoil those events for readers. I will say they’re issues that are most likely particular to my tastes, and not those of most science fiction aficionados.
Well done, William F. Aicher. Now it’s time to see those scores!
Writing: 8/10. Aicher’s language is easily understandable, and I particularly appreciate his choice to use short chapters. Especially during the confusing portions at the beginning of the story, they helped me stay engaged with natural stopping points.
Characters: 10/10. I can’t say there’s a single character in this story that lacked some sort of depth. I loved them all, especially Ghost. He’s a cool dude.
Setting: 9/10. On each page, you can tell Aicher spent a lot of time thinking through the history and place of his world. I applaud the creativity; though he loses a point for a particular pseudo-scientific explanation that I oppose.
Plot: 7/10. While overall I loved the plot of this tale, a few choices along the way caused a few point drops. I won’t spoil, but one particular option felt just a bit too deus ex machina for my tastes.
Overall: 8.5/10. With a score of 8.5, Sparks receives a high four stars, one of our few reviews to break above the 8 point mark. Well done!