I was offered the chance to read this book before its debut in exchange for an honest review.
To give you an idea of my taste, I typically only rate fiction to be four stars at best. This is because for me, a five-star book would always teach me something, and from my perspective that is only possible with nonfiction. Why the five-star review for this work of fiction, then? If a new author of fiction can make me consider issuing my maximum-possible review, especially a new author who builds his world as well as J. Rushing does in this book, then I have to make an exception. Also, talented new authors need to get the recognition they deserve, and if my spending an extra star can help make that happen, then it’s the least I can do. (I’ll also admit to being much more critical of the creative decisions of more established writers, as I feel everyone should be.) What follows is a spoiler-free review based on my experience with a book somewhat outside my usual genre of choice.
I read fiction for purely recreational purposes - I spread it out between heavier or just longer nonfiction that can feel like pushing a rock up a hill, for too long a time. So for me, the purpose of (good) fiction is to plant me in its world and sweep me away, for hours at a time sometimes! The longer the better, because that means that the it's easy to seep into the story and harder to pull myself out, to put down the book. I will also admit that my pleasures in fiction are sci-fi and mythology (and sometimes vaguely historically) based stories. RADIO feeds that itch damn well. A swarm of mythological characters meet in 1920's Paris. It is fantastical without being mere fantasy. The plot is unpredictable enough (for me, that's not a common occurrence), and the characters are interesting (decent character development is even harder to find, especially in new writers). The historical research into the setup of this story seems also well-done. I have never been to Paris, but I suppose one could attempt to pull up a map of the city (from the 1920's) and try to parse out the paths taken, and it would all reasonably add up. As I'd never been, it was all Greek to me. Well, French, but you get the idea. Maybe, for anyone familiar with Paris, it might add an extra dimension and appreciation for the story.
The mythological characters were portrayed well not just for their likeness in historical imagery, but also close to their natures in the epics of so many various cultures. Dare I say, it seemed more like "two truths and a lie" where the "lie" took some time to figure out because it all seemed as if, yes, it could be real. Like I said, fantastical without mere fantasy.
Now, was there anything I didn't like? In bits and pieces, short paragraphs of prose that was more ornate than I might have liked. But then again, when I'm chasing the suspense dragon (wha whhhaa reference to the book), I want nothing more than to get to the next word, the next sentence, the next solution to whichever distress is happening. This is just my preference for action fiction. So I did stumble over some words (especially slang I didn't know, which is another thumbs up for the accuracy of historical information from the 1920's). But I didn't find any of that as any reason to tone down the rating, or even my experience of it. I mean, I write on my own time (nothing as terrifying as my own novel) and my freedom of word usage is exactly my own - I most likely would not listen to another writer critiquing my description/imagery, nor would I impose that on other writers. Unless, of course, the word choices were terrible ... I didn't find that the case here. In any case, my slight distaste for ornate prose is a personal issue and I fight with it every day, except when in my own private writing exercises. 😂😂😂😂
All in all, I charted this as 5 stars because it fulfilled its own purpose well. It's a story that takes you away into a (slightly) different world and keeps you in its grips until the very end. As I mentioned, I prefer that most of my reading be nonfiction, but nonetheless, I still somehow made the fit into the category of readers that this book caters toward. Actually, no spoilers, but I loved the setup for the ending. Sometimes, stories end too soon after all the climactic action toward the end and it always feels incomplete. Life doesn't become all mundane and "happily every after" after the most harrowing moments, so why would stories!?!? In RADIO's case, the resolution seems fitting and it gave that little extra oomph at the end that people like me require in order to feel satiated. This resolution also, simultaneously, opened up a whole new vista on which a sequel could be predicated. Masterminds in fantasy and world-building do something like this superbly and looks like J. Rushing might be a promising future member. Here's to hoping!