The Definition of Luck or the Post-Modern Prometheus by Steven Paul Leiva (book review).

Every which way you look at it ‘The Definition Of Luck Or The Post-Modern Prometheus’ is not a good title for this book. It deserves something better and, at the end of this review, I will tell you why. Before we get there lets deal with what’s in front of me.

  ‘The Definition Of Luck Or The Post-Modern Prometheus’ is the sixth novel in the ‘Wild Trip’ novels written by written by Steven Paul Leiva. Now I’ve not read any of the preceding novels but that isn’t a requirement as this novel stands on its own two feet. There are probably tie-ins or references to the other books but the only one I saw was to what will be or now is the seventh novel. Anyway, this particular novel is a Science Fiction novel set in the near future.

  There are two main characters in this book: Khadambi Kinyanjui and Joe Smith who first met at the University of Southern California in 2049. Apart from both of them being brilliant scientists, they have very little in common which doesn’t stop them becoming the best of friends. The difference in physical appearance, characters and family backgrounds is striking but ultimately of irrelevant as the two progress their interests.

  Khadambi Kinyanjui, a 6-foot-five Kenyan who grew up in London, is from a wealthy family is a neurobiologist. Joe Smith, quite a bit shorter, is a red-headed orphan who grew up with his Aunt Liz in an experimental Mars habitat buried in the California desert. He is an accomplished astronomer who Khadambi calls ‘Astro’. However, this was in response to Joe calling him ‘Neuro’, as he had trouble pronouncing the Kenyan name.

  The story starts years after their initial meeting with the two friends in a sports bar enjoying a friendly drink which turns into several. Astro is rather more inebriated than Neuro but that is of little consequence when disaster hits. As they are making their way to their respective apartments, a crane used for constructing a new building collapses and falls onto one of them. I’m not going to say which one as that would be a major spoiler.

  From this point on, things get complicated as the timeline of the story moves forward but in bits and pieces. A lot of the text is depicting on what has gone before. We learn of Astro’s backstory and how he became an orphan and was adopted by his slightly eccentric Auntie. Neuro’s past is also explored and is the more colourful of the two. Events in both of their early lives more or less pre-defined what their areas of expertise would be.

  Following the accident, the uninjured person is considering all the options to help his friend survive. When the diagnosis is that the body can not be saved, he has to consider more extreme measures such as a digital upload. Everything has to be considered to keep the friendship alive.

  I have to admit to being a bit of a nerd and so what had my interest at this point was what were they going to do to keep the failing half of the friendship alive or at least functioning. It took rather a long time to find out as there’s more exploration of the characters pasts. Their second and third meetings are covered in some detail. Astro is taken on a trip to Kenya to help Neuro assess his families preferred choice for a bride.

  All of these forays into the past are interesting, but I want to know what’s going to happen next. At the time of the accident, technology was thought to be close to being able to upload a mind but not quite. One thread in the story follows the attempts of a genius who many think is completely mad but who just might be able to pull it off. Of course, Astro and Neuro met him a few times before the accident so there are more expeditions into the past to cover these meetings.

  It was only after I had read the book and was thinking about it that I realised this was really a tale of friendship enjoyed by the best of friends. The near future setting is interesting but I would say not the main subject of this story.

  Now about the books title. In the first chapter, Neuro provides his definition of luck which is a bit nebulous at best. He’s trying to explain why Astro is so successful with the ladies. My objection to this as a title is because it is inconsequential to the story. Yes, it gets mentioned again towards the end, but doesn’t really have any impact there neither. Perhaps I’m being unkind as I’m not sure I can come up with a better title.

  What I can say is this is a very well-written book. Yes, it is Science Fiction and has some interesting ideas but the description of the friendship between Astro and Neuro is the core subject of this book. Once you realise this, it puts things into perspective which is probably why I’ve continued to enjoy thinking about the book long after reading it.

  ‘The Definition Of Luck Or The Post-Modern Prometheus’ certainly gets a recommendation from me.

Andy Whitaker

March 2023

(pub: Magpie Press, 2022. 316 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.46 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-735298542)

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