Today's book review is Secret of the Snow Leopard by John C. Robinson.
This is probably the most obscure title I've ever reviewed here. It was published in 1999 by a company called Lost Coast Press. Judging from the other books they plug, it's a very small press and not one that normally publishes SF. I came across it because birder2 met the author, who was an old acquaintance, at a birdwatching convention, and she bought the book to support a friend. I in turn was curious enough to read it because there aren't very many SF books about big cats out there.
This is an interesting and original story. It was not clear until the final few pages how two totally separate plots were going to come together, or in fact if the story was going to make sense as a whole, but by the end it did. Some interesting world building, some bizarre but still intriguing science speculation, some somewhat interesting social explanation, and of course snow leopards, snow leopards which aren't quite true to the wild animals but with reason. Unfortunately, I have to say that the writing is terrible. The chain of events that supports the plot is needlessly convoluted; while I didn't notice any actual contradictions, it seemed like Robinson went out of his way to make some things happen in unlikely ways when they could easily have been handled in more straightforward ways. At the level of individual sentences and paragraphs, there were dozens of places with painfully misused words; I suspect someone gave the man a thesaurus and he didn't know better than to assume that any of the "synonyms" he encountered would actually work as synonyms in the sentence he was writing, and there were passages with so much strained and strange description that I thought I was reading a Bulwer-Litton contest entry. This felt to me like a first novel -- not a first published novel, mind you, but a first attempt at writing a novel. I think it could be a really good book if Robinson got the experience of writing several more novels and came back and re-did it; it could even have been quite solid if Robinson and a really good editor had been willing to polish it. But that didn't happen.
It's hard to rate a book that was definitely interesting enough to hold my attention despite dreadful writing. I think I'll go with a 6 out of 10.