Heaven and Earth by Arturo Riojas - 3/10

Heaven and Earth is a book with a lot of promise and potential, written by an environmental engineer who, much like myself, is concerned about the state of our food industry and wants to educate people about the hidden dangers through the medium of story. Sadly it quickly proved itself to be little more than a platform for the author to distribute so called ‘facts’ about cadmium poisoning without having to provide the usual scientific and academic references that would have been required if this information had gone through a peer review process. While it is possible that the ‘facts’ are indeed accurate the almost complete lack of referencing is either a terrible oversight on the author's part or, and sadly much more likely, due to the fact the claims are entirely unsubstantiated.

The story part of the book is actually not so bad. It's a little straightforward since it is also designed to hammer home the statement that cadmium is bad and we should stop eating everything except broccoli, but the use of a parallel story set on an alien world is a nice narrative device for the author's aims. Heaven and Earth follows Earth based scientists in the U.S. who have been called together to attend a conference. Although it seems none of scientists know why they have been called together, it quickly transpires that the government officials running the show have some unusual concerns and want to keep a close eye on anyone seen as even a little subversive. 

Luckily our main characters happen to been more than a little rebellious, and both have the author's views on cadmium. The rest of the novel mostly focuses on their attempts to ‘bust the conspiracy open’ about cadmium, while also investigating further into Area 51 and the presence of aliens in the universe. Of course it turns out aliens are completely real, have been assisting our development for a long time and are also concerned about the large volumes of heavy metals in our diets. The other side of the story focuses on the struggles and injustices of the alien home world, who have also developed on a similarly toxic world.

I've given this book a 3 out of 10 rating simply because the editing is well done and there are a few interesting style choices which work rather well, such as splitting the page in half to show simultaneous conversations. I also like that the author has taken the time to include both the Spanish used by the character and the English translation next to it, rather than taking the lazier route of just adding “he said in Spanish”. That said, the writing itself tends to be rather simplistic and is full of needless exposition. We are subjected to almost the complete history of the alien culture thanks to ‘stories told by alien Grandpa’ while having to read about how almost every human character with half a brain thinks that Olga, practically the only woman in the book, is ‘hot’.

However, it is miles away from a 4 out of 10 rating, and I would honestly struggle to recommend this book beyond being an example of how not to combine a scientific paper and a novel together. I really was disappointed by this book. As a fellow environmental engineer and author it's maddening to see people attempting to deliver their own agenda in this fashion on such a potentially damaging subject and I feel the author would have been much better off releasing the story of Heaven and Earth by itself before letting the scientific community give the cadmium facts the peer review they need.

If you do want to check it out for yourself, you can buy it on Amazon here -->  Heaven and Earth


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