Review: Red Queen: The Substrate Wars by Jeb Kinnison



Set on a California college campus just a decade or two from now, the world of Red Queen is post-terrorist disaster, repressive and censored — governed like China today, but with a stagnant economy and no jobs for young people. In that sense it is a dystopia, though not so far from our own day and time; only a few steps beyond where we are now. The students are cowed but not unaware, and they seize the opportunity to make a difference when their smarts and courage allow it. And so they change the world.

This is Book 1 of Substrate Wars, the series: A growing band of campus freedom-fighters discover a new technology that could either destroy the world, or save it. They take on the responsibility of using it for good. Homeland Security is one step behind them. Spies and traitors lurk. Shall it be repressive bureaucratic stagnation, or expansion to the stars?


We were given this book in exchange for an honest review. I, Amy, just finished reading this book, so here we go!

I’m just going to say it: this is not my kind of book. By reading it, I figured out that I’m not the kinda girl for sci-fi. Also, I am not computer-science-smart, another reason I didn’t like this book a lot.

So the story is basically about a genius science professor who invents a ‘gateway’ which he can use to go to other places on earth and even another planet. The gateway looks like a door and with only one step you go from California to China, to give an example. The gateway also opens to another planet, which they call New Earth.

The book starts with a bombing on New York by the, if I am correct, muslims. The story takes place only about two decades from now, but things have changed. People don’t have the freedom of speech anymore, and the government is very strict.

The story follows a couple of people, like Justin Smith a grad student who helps Steve Duong, the man who invented the gateway. Also professor Wilson, who gets arrested for having contact with an outlaw, Justin’s girlfriend-to-be Samantha and Samantha’s ex-boyfriend Dylan Foster, who’s trying to rat the bunch out.

So there are a couple of reasons why I couldn’t get into this book.
Firstly, it uses a lot of computer-science language, which I don’t understand a crap of. Jeb Kinnison, the writer, has a MIT Cognitive Science degree, so he’s on a whole other level than I am (there’s a reason why I didn’t do great in science in high school). All those difficult words and talking about this gateway machine, made me not understand half of the story.

Secondly, Jeb uses a lot of dialogue and not so much action. Dialogue between two or more people could go on for a couple pages without me understanding any of it.

Thirdly, I missed chemistry between the characters. For example, Justin and Samantha are supposed to fall for eachother, be in love, but I didn’t feel it. Most of the time they were just talking about, guess what, science and liberty and politics and I never once saw a spark fly.

However, I can’t say this book was only bad, because it wasn’t bad. It is just not my kind of book. Halfway into the story the computer-science lingo minimized and I was able to understand a lot more, and because of what was happening then I wanted to continue reading because I wanted to know how it ended (WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT ENDS ABRUPTLY?!).
Plus, Jeb is a really good writer, the story is very well-written. So many thanks Jeb, for giving me (us) the opportunity to read it and I find it a real pity to find out it just wasn’t my kind of book. Don’t give up on writing however, because you’re a great writer and if you were to be writing other books, I’d definitely give them a try.

So if you like sci-fi books and you’re a smart whizz kid this book is definitely something for you.
amy calloway sisters



2 thoughts on “Review: Red Queen: The Substrate Wars by Jeb Kinnison

  1. Thanks for the honest review, Amy. When you’re writing a techno-thriller one subset of your readers wants a fully-worked-out technology behind the action, while you risk alienating those who are looking for the human-level story by spending too much story time working that out. One of the other reviewers said, “IT made me feel like Penny in Big Bang Theory!” — these are geeky students who even flirt by talking ideas. 🙂

    I am very happy to hear that you enjoyed the story once all that was out of the way, though. When I’m done with this series I may write something a little more romantic and relationship-oriented, and I’ll think of you! You also might enjoy the next book in the series, which is more action and drama and less technology…


  2. Hi Jeb, thank you for your nice comment!
    I might indeed pick up the next book in the series, because I got a little curious about how it goes on from there.

    And if you ever write that romantic relationship book, I’ll definitely read it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s