Alex Pilalis in The Awakening of James Island hands us over to a chaotic future universe charged with mystery and danger. James is a young man with almost no memory or known history. He works in a fairly menial job at a construction site, but does not know where he came from or what his purpose in life might be. The city where he works is a crossroads of a variety of interplanetary creatures and vehicles that keep him both trepidatious and confused. Soon after we enter the story, an alien named Evan comes into his life in a dramatic fashion I won’t spoil for readers by describing here. Evan claims to know and be responsible for James destiny, but won’t reveal details, and James mistrusts his claim. Multiple harrowing adventures ensue.
Pilalis has a wonderful talent for creating excruciating situations for his many-talented characters and for devising astonishing escapes. Excitement, suspense and surprises await on nearly every page. I wasn’t, however, surprised to find on reading Pilalis’ bio after I’d finished the book that he’s spent considerable time in the video game industry. I could really picture some of those situations he invented coming right out of the small screen, zooming and leaping through and over obstacles as if someone had a thumb on a controller.
One caveat for me was that James himself seemed seldom able to analyze situations or devise his own escapes. I’d have liked him to be a bit more self-sufficient, stronger of mind and body and able to extricate himself from dilemmas instead of having to nearly always depend on others. However, this is the first of a series, and I anticipate he’ll grow as the tale goes on. With that small reservation, I highly recommend this novel and await the sequels.