External Forces Deborah Rix: a Book Review

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Submitted by Mark Smith

Why is there a book review in Cashbox, this is a music magazine?

When I moved to Toronto, my first job was working at Joanne Smale Publicity alongside another young PR person, Deborah Rix, a solid, direct and straightforward professional. She was so focused on the job that I never really thought of her reading much more than tear sheets or writing press releases. Assumptions are usually wrong, long time Canadian music publicist Deborah Rix has written a book, not a bio or a tell all; this is fiction.

External Forces is Rix’s first foray into the world of sci-fi writer. I am an avid reader of “anything with words” and being an old friend I asked for a copy to read on a planned extended vacation. With one condition, that she be open to any criticism and opinion I have of it and be prepared for me to be harshly critical.

Set in the near future we are introduced to Jess and Jay, high school friends; complaining about parents, planning parties, scoping out potential dates and planning their future.  The future?  Bleak, a world divided, America walled, forced idealism and big brother overtones.

Seems rudimentary; the evil forces “The Red Hand” or “the deviants” are trying to infiltrate the “Department of Evolution” and “Special Forces” are in place to stop them.

Leaving school, Jess lies about her age by subverting the computer systems records, and is accepted into the “Special Forces”. Jay is accepted as a pilot and they both enter boot camp. Here Rix drops new characters into the plot and in short time we are introduced to all the players, each with a distinct personality, but not static, they continue to develop throughout the book.

Rix does a great job intertwining the characters with spinning and building the tale around them, all through the eyes of a Jess, trying to understand the world around her. Leaving questions unanswered and doors open, Rix manages to tie in today’s concerns, the Tea Party, Monsanto, faith in God and the Patriot Act, all without being preachy. Rix is talking from the future, and this is our consequence.

Another thing that shocked me is Rix is really good at spilling blood, we are talking CGI good, and her battle scenes are graphic and descriptive. I have known Deborah for 30ish years, and the memories of her playing with kittens and puppies are now erased.

Did I mention that Jay is gay? Rix intertwines Jay’s sexuality into the plot so well that is becomes mater of fact, as she does with other plot elements. This is where I think the success of External Forces lies, Deborah’s ability to be matter of fact with just enough detail for us to believe this is the future.

I finished the book as my holiday ended and the last long haul flight touched down, realizing that during the 14-hour flight I had not watched one movie or a single episode of Big Bang Theory.  I was disappointed the book ended, but excited to see that two more are planned in the series.

What do I think?

I need to preface this, I have dozens of books written by friends and I do not offer praise lightly.  Deborah Rix has impressed the fuck out of me, her ability to spin a tale kept me interested. I keep 3 or 4 books on the go at all times, this is one of the few books that I did not have to go back a few pages to reacquaint myself with the characters.

This was a good/great vacation read; I have two other standard holiday reads, Vanity Fair Magazine and Jeffry Archer. I believe that given another two or three of these under her belt and we will have a Canadian equivalent to Sir Jeffry, Rix tells that good of a story.

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