Review: Plato's Gateway

"Plato's Gateway" by Brian Jeffreys

Publisher: GrandMobius Press
Pages: 346 pages
File Size: 273K (Kindle)
Language: English
Purchase: Paperback, Kindle, Nook, Other E-Readers

I purchased the Kindle Edition of this book in December 2011. What attracted me to it involved the book's description of the lead character having an autistic brother who would come to play a pivotal role. While the idea of people with disabilities in SF isn't new - the late Anne McCaffrey's THE SHIP WHO SANG and PARTNERSHIP come to mind, along with the later THE SHIP WHO SEARCHED she wrote with Mercedes Lackey - the idea of mentaldisabilities and in particular autism has not been handled as frequently. My expectations were set of how a man struggled with his autistic brother in a futurstic time, and as implied by the description, how people with differences could make a difference.

The biggest reality though is that this really isn't Jerry's story, who is the autistic brother, but on the brother Phillip. Not only do we see Phillip's life affected by having to become Jerry's guardian, but when an unexpected event changes things for Jerry how he deals with that after.

It also focuses on his unexpected love relationship with Space Marshall Amanda Hayes, with whom he's had more than a few run-ins while trying to own his own ship after dropping out of school to take care of Jerry. Yet the stresses of the sales piece, while they do mention Phillip and Amanda, place primary emphasis on Jerry becoming the hero against the evil Dr. Plato, who has some secret plans of his own. I really wanted to see more of Jerry, and at times raced through chapters hoping the next one I'd see him, only to find more about Phillip.

One thing I did like was the use of a generation ship as a plot device, they rarely show up in SF anymore and present all kinds of cutural and other issues than can be explored. Jeffreys does deal with a couple of them to small degrees. A lot of the book though action, and not a lot of character or culture exploration, so we never spent too much time on any of this.

Generally the book is well written with good use of language, description, and action. The book has a few glaring typographical errors, including getting the brothers' names switched on a couple of occasions which is critical. Another really odd thing about my copy (the Kindle version) is that one of the chapters about three-fourths of the way through (17, to be specific) is about a batallion fighting plant-like space aliens that has nothing to do with the rest of the book or even feel like a sequel setup. I frankly don't know why it's there, and perhaps I missed something.

PLATO'S GATEWAY offered what felt like a groundbreaking premise, but failed to deliver. I think the key may lie in the first sentence of the author's preface, where he says, "I struggled with whether or not to introduce a character with autism into this story" and I think the discomfort shows. Researching the author, he does have a lot of personal experience with autism and I felt I could have learned a lot more about the struggles and promise of autism based on his knowledge, but it never really came through in the characters, which is a shame.

Reviewed by: Shannon Muir