Author: Peter Kassan
Release Date: March 24, 2013
Source: I received an ecopy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
What if you suddenly discovered you had a sense-and powers-that almost no one else in the world did? When Amanda Lindner Nichols, a 24-year-old graphic artist living with her husband in Queens, New York, is revived from a near-death experience, she discovers she perceives everyone around her as points of light-but not with her eyes. She soon learns she can not only perceive the life energy of others, but she can give and take it. With the help of others like her, she brings her husband Chris to the brink of death and back to bestow on him the same remarkable faculty, and they're the happiest they've been. But not for long. All over the world, people who've been revived from their own near-death experience at just the right moment discover themselves with these same unusual powers. They find ways to use them-some for good and some for evil. When Amanda and Chris encounter a ruthless group of gangsters with the same faculty, tragedy follows-and Amanda faces the greatest challenge of her life.
Lightpoints is an intriguing look at how differently people react to, view and use a 'talent' given to them following a Near Death Experience (NDE). The majority of the cast of characters has experienced an NDE, and an Out-of-Body Experience as well. Once revived, they can perceive, or 'sense' the energy, or lightpoints, of everyone around them. As this sense is explored, they discover they can also give and take energy.
Mr. Kassan spins many threads in this story, but not all are woven together. We are introduced to several characters and groups of characters who have the sense. I can only surmise these characters' significance was to reinforce the differences in how people of varying circumstances, be it social, religious, etc., handle having this ability. Of course, Mr. Kassan may also intend on giving these characters their own stories - I rather hope he does. However, Lightpoints revolves mainly around Amanda Nichols and her husband, Chris, and Carlos Herrera. It is through the telling and the intersecting of their stories that Mr. Kassan illustrates the disparity between humans with this ability.
The sense, as I said, is the ability to perceive the energy emitted by a human. Through this sense, a person can identify much about other people, such as whether a person is cheerful or agitated. Once the sense is honed, they can even sense a person's nature. It seems as though a person's use of their sense is dependent upon their moral compass. Amanda, for instance, explores her sense gradually, and uses it to accomplish good. Carlos Herrera, on the other hand, only seeks ways to use it for personal gain.
Amanda is an incredibly strong and resilient young woman. It was fascinating to watch as she navigated life with her new sense. It was also fulfilling to see she and Chris connect on a completely different level, once they both are sensitives. She had begun to withdraw from him and couldn't share her new ability. However, things decline rapidly when Herrera finds them. He's out to collect sensitives, trying to create a way to use the sense against his enemies.
Lightpoints is a very cerebral read. There is some action and suspense, especially towards the end, but it's not a book that had my heart pounding. However, I was so intrigued by the notion of this sense and the power it encompassed, I was captivated. Lightpoints is very well written and beautifully rendered. My only real concerns are that I would have liked to have had the multiple threads woven together, and although I understand Amanda's actions at the end of the book, I felt her actions didn't quite mesh with her nature. Perhaps Mr. Kassan was making the point that despite being a good person, one never knows what they're capable of until tested by dire circumstances.
As I'm writing this review, I continue to wonder about Amanda, Lisa and the support group, as well as other characters introduced. I do hope this isn't the end of the line. If it is, Mr. Kassan has certainly provided an interesting topic to ponder.
Hi, Peter, and welcome to my blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and chat with me!
Can you tell us a little about yourself? (like why you'd leave the exciting world of technical writing?!?)
I’ve always been interested in both the worlds of art and the world of science and mathematics. As a child, I wrote poetry and I studied acting, but I also subscribed to Scientific American and was obsessed with cryptography and number systems. I went to New York’s School of Performing Arts (that’s the one in the movie Fame) as a drama major, but in college I majored in math and took a lot of psych courses. When I graduated, I needed to earn a living
while I wrote the next Great American Novel (which, I’m now relieved to say, was never published), so I got a job as a computer programmer. It was a natural progression to combine my interests in writing and computers to become a technical writer. That led to a long career as an executive in the software products field.
Why are readers going to love Lightpoints?
Lightpoints imagines experiences no one has ever had and makes you believe they’re completely real. It’s very sensual.
Can you tell us about any research you did for the novel? Do you know anyone who has had a Near Death Experience? Have you studied art or did you do some research to be able to describe Chris' paintings?
I’ve long been interested in various aspects of psychology, including consciousness, near-death, and out-of-body experiences. I just did some quick online research as I was writing to refresh my memory on the usual elements of such experiences and their sequence. Regarding Chris’s paintings: again, I’ve long been interested in fine art (although I’ve never tried painting myself). I made it all up, and then I asked a friend who’s a trained artist to read it over. To my surprise, he told me not to change anything.
Is there a particular scene that you enjoyed writing? Or a scene that was difficult to write?
Writing about John and Lisa looking at Chris’s painting with him and Amanda was especially fun, because there were many layers to make real. First, how could I describe a sense that’s completely fictitious and no one has at all? Then there was Chris as an artist trying to conceive of making visual something that isn’t actually visualizable. Then Chris describes how he executed the paintings—I loved making that up, and it was very gratifying when my friend told me I had gotten it right. And then describing each of the character’s reactions to the paintings.
I also especially enjoyed writing the scenes of various people around the world with the sense using it in different ways. When I imagined this new faculty, I realized that people would react to discovering themselves with it would incorporate it into their lives in different ways, depending on their personalities and circumstances and beliefs. I wanted to show that the story I was telling—about a young American woman with the sense—was only one of many. Some readers loved these independent storylines, but others were disappointed that only one ended up converging with Amanda’s. But, really, if the sense I imagined was as rare as I described, how would everyone with it all over the world even know about each other, much less all come together at the end?
The climax was difficult. In this kind of novel, it’s pretty much a requirement that you put the protagonist into an impossible situation and then get her out of it. After drafting that scene, I had to go back to earlier scenes to make what happened at the end more plausible.
Do you have a favorite character from the book? Why?
Novelists tend to fall in love with their villains—that’s why they often avoid killing them off at the end. And I had fun with all the bad guys. But I love Amanda, my protagonist. If I didn’t love her, how could I expect readers to care about her?
Since this is your debut novel, do you have any advice to give aspiring writers?
Learn spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, and other conventions of written English. Every word, every punctuation mark matters. Pay attention to how you’re feeling about your writing: if you’re not enjoying writing it, no one will enjoy reading it. But if you’re having too much fun, you’re probably just being self-indulgent. Reread and edit your own writing again and again: no one will pay as much attention or give as much thought to your writing as you will, because no one cares as much about it as you do. Finally, just do the work. When I was just starting to write, I put up a little sign: The elves that help the old shoemaker do not help thee.
What are you currently working on? Is there going to be a sequel to Lightpoints? (this I'd really like to know! ;)
I had gotten through about a third of a sequel to Lightpoints that continued Amanda’s story. But I wasn’t enjoying writing it (see my answer to the previous question), so I’ve put it in hold. I’ve just started working on the first installment in a projected trilogy that’s based on the same basic idea—people acquiring a new sense and new powers after they’ve had a near-death-out-of-body experience—but taking it in a different direction. My protagonist is Alyssa (I like names that start and end with the letter A), a seventeen-year-old girl living in Topanga Canyon, California. The sense and the powers of the faculty are a little different from what I describe in
Lightpoints, and I introduce several new ideas.
Thanks again, Peter!
Combining my love of writing with my interest in computer programming, I became a technical writer for several software products companies, eventually becoming a minority shareholder and executive vice president of a small, privately held company. There, I wrote and managed the writing of everything from software design documents to marketing literature. Twenty-five years later, after it was sold to a large computer company with a three letter name, I became one of those celebrated risk-takers we’ve heard so much about. I started a company based on what I thought was a bright idea of mine. Within a couple of years, I’d crashed and burned, and discovered myself in financial ruin and without a job. Trying to find a job in my industry or to establish a consulting practice, I learned it was no industry for old men. Mostly to keep myself sane, I decided to write a novel based on the germ of an idea I’d had in my twenties. That became Lightpoints.