The Release of 'Noman's Land' by Mel Lee Newmin
When I finished my first read-through of Mel Lee Newmin’s science fiction novel Noman’s Land I made a few notes to give her some feedback. Below is an edited version of those notes, with spoilers removed and a bit of wording changed. I hope that they convey something of the excitement and energy of this book, and prompt you to check it out.
I think Noman’s Land is totally brilliant!
I can list the reasons I think it’s so good, if you wish? Oh, OK then :)
1. It’s clever: it doesn’t patronise the reader by making things too simple. The way you have thought out the noman culture, language, technology and even biology is utterly fascinating. But at no point do you lose the reader — the human/narrative viewpoint remains strong throughout, thanks to the great character of Daj, in whom we are always ready to believe — fallible, flawed, romantic but also pragmatic, passionate but sane, and also heroic.
2. It’s well-paced. As you can perhaps imagine, I get a LOT of stuff on my desk, some of which is quite a chore to read, so much so that I find myself dividing the book into quarters, eights, even sixteenths so that I can ‘count down’ to finally finishing the thing — but not with yours, not even for a second. I found myself gripped from the beginning: you never let things flag. Just as you might be on the verge of an exposition overdose, BANG there’s some action — real action, well-described and dynamic (which is another good test of an author: can they ‘do’ action sequences well — and you definitely can!) Noman’s Land is truly a page-turner — it’s one of those rare books (for me anyway) which I found myself thinking about after I had (with difficulty) laid it aside, imagining the characters and the setting and the events of the story even when not reading the book!
The pacing ties in with the first point about culture, biology etc. Utterly gripping on so many levels.
3. Characters: I’m not quite sure how you have done this (which is another sign of a great author), but I found myself liking these characters, even when some of them were being obscure and unpleasant. They are just so three dimensional — not an easy thing to achieve when you’re talking about an alien race! And I’ve already said that you have a real triumph on your hands with Daj: not someone you would automatically think of as a ‘hero’, but he comes across as both vulnerable and invulnerable at the same time.
4. Science fiction: perhaps the over-arching thing for me personally in reading this is that you have so totally captured what a good science fiction book should be about. This is the kind of book I would personally have selected from a shelf in my younger days when I was freer to read purely for pleasure — the mix of ‘hard science’ with action, intrigue and adventure is perfect. I was reminded on several occasions of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in a good way: lone Earthling finds himself in totally alien culture but respected for his personal qualities to the degree that he works his way up their social hierarchy and achieves wonders. I was also reminded of C. S. Lewis’s clever notion of making the protagonist a linguist — in Lewis’s case, the philologist Ransom (hero of Lewis’s Ransom trilogy) is kidnapped and taken to Mars, but because he knows languages quickly learns to communicate to the inhabitants and so overcomes that hurdle faced by so many sci-fi stories featuring alien races: understanding each other.
But you do all this with an ocean’s worth of splashes of your own flavour: the noman cultural backdrop is so deep and different that it is captivating in its own right. I’d better stop listing these points soon or I’ll end up raving for pages…
In short, I think you have on your hands something of a masterwork, and something which I will be very proud to publish.
Please let me know your thoughts about all of the above and whether or not you have any questions.
Thank you for presenting me with such an enjoyable work! I look forward to hearing from you very much, and well done!
You can grab a paperback or Kindle copy of Noman’s Land here!