Book Review: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel

Posted August 21, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 5 Comments

Book Review: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBelBernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel
Genres: Fantasy, History, Mythology, YA
Published by Argon Press on May 25, 2014
Pages: 420
Format: eBook
Source: Author


We have all heard of the fabled perfect being, the Greek God.

Well, how about a geek god? Named Bernie, yet.

Fresh with his diploma from God School, determined but unsure, bright but without confidence, Bernie faces the challenge of building his own universe. If only it were that easy...

An old school rival will do whatever it takes to ensure Bernie's failure, even if it means destroying his world.

It’s god vs. god, guile vs. goodness, where only one of them plays by the rules. Bernie must find a way to outwit his evil foe. If he fails, it will cost him everything.

A fascinating tale of good vs. evil and a young hero on a journey of self-discovery in an original, humorous, fantastic wrapper.

Also by this author: "Bernie and the Lost Girl", Bernie and the Wizards

First in The Universe Builders fantasy series for Young Adults and revolving around gods, builder gods!

A special thanks to Steve LeBel for allowing me to read this story.

My Take
This was brilliant in so many ways. I’ve not read anything like this before. And talk about the ultimate empowerment, a teen with the power of life and death in a blink of the eye. LeBel has put so much thought into this universe. And I like how he’s kept the parallel going with humanity, with our distant past, with our history. Even better is all the science, physics, geology, sociology, astronomy, life cycle processing, and more that LeBel makes understandable. I had never thought about what was involved in building a world like this. The thought he’s put into the shimmer alone was lovely.

LeBel cracked me up at so many points. Heck, his whole premise of gods going to school and creating universes as school projects…lol… I sure enjoyed his pulling in that bit about overachieving gods who create a universe in six days, ahem, *grin*.

Oh, man, even gods have to make outlines and plans before they get to play. How unfair is that? Seems there are rules for Creation Mechanics.

It is a different perspective on teens, the best and the worst of them: Billy and his bullying, his gang who kowtows to him out of fear, and then Bernie, the underdog, who believes in the sacredness of life with his supporters.

I did enjoy how LeBel informed us of Bernie’s past as he checks in with Bernie’s teachers. Poor guy. And I do not like teachers who pick on their students, who hold up their mistakes for students to laugh over year after year after year. I think it’s reprehensible. And why aren’t these teachers helping Bernie control his so-strong cloud? Why are they picking on him without taking that cloud into account? It’s as if all the impulses of being a child, a teen, has gone into the cloud as it acts out on every emotion, forcing Bernie to struggle for control. This bugs me. Then there are the teachers who get so hidebound within their subjects that they can’t handle a student who questions. Why not encourage kids to think? That Gabriel who tried so hard to force Bernie to flunk. When we get Bernie’s side, there’s a whole different perspective. One that would make me launch an investigation in that teacher’s classroom style. Why are those teachers allow to stay in place? And I wanna know why Ezrha would take him at all seriously. Zachariah is the jerk of a headmaster.

What are any of these people thinking? They’re all CONDONING bullying behavior. They’re punishing the kids getting bullied. And what’s really sad is that this is what is going on in the real world, in our schools all the time. Don’t any of these people ever look at both sides of an issue? Talk with the actual participants as opposed to listening to rumors and making up their own versions? Jesus, they sabotaged this kid from the word go.

“Dick and Jane are one of the Great Mysteries.”

Beatrice, a teacher Ezrha respects, has only good things to say, and yet he’s already leaning against Bernie because of prejudiced teachers. Of course, you could say that Beatrice is prejudiced, but read it. You’ll immediately understand. And if you have kids, you may want to take another look at your kid’s teachers!!

I do not like Ezhra. He’s too hidebound himself. Too caught up in listening to teachers who are jerks. Especially when he talks to Suzie because he knows she thinks so highly of Bernie when he says “…I can’t pretend to listen to your input when my mind is almost made up”. I’m sorry, but that sounds as if he’s “allowing” Suzie to talk but he has no intention of actually listening to her.

LeBel leaves me wondering about so many things, and I wanted to know more about the watchers and why they obsess about Bernie, about Bernie’s jerk of a dad, why the gods are so obtuse about jerky gods like Billy, why Suzie (who has known Bernie for yonks) can so easily misinterpret his actions on that first day, what is it about those woods that go past the Edge, and more.

On the negative side, I’m not sure if LeBel has decided on a reading audience. The language is definitely more on the adult side, however there are incidents in this that are too stupid to be believed that would be embarrassing in a middle-grade novel. I mean, why on earth…oops, I mean The World…does it take so frickin’ long for any of the three friends to realize it’s Billy doing the sabotage?? I mean, hullo! Heck, I knew Billy’d be messing with Bernie’s project as soon as I knew he was part of the same department let alone in the next cubicle.

The story needs some massive editing. It keeps going forever, and as much as I enjoyed the story concept, I got to wondering if it would get anywhere. Part of that annoyance was Bernie’s naiveté about Billy. Part of it was all these side trips into too much information that didn’t add to the story and way too much detail in those areas of the story where some detail provides the background color and helps us see, feel what’s happening without having to drone on and on about it. I think a lot of the side trips would have been better as short stories.

Where is Bernie’s dad? I would have thought he’d have popped up at the end. Nor did I understand why Bernie didn’t talk to his mom. He mentioned throughout the story that his mom had helped his dad on his three prize-winning universes, and yet he never considers asking her for advice.

How is it that there have only been 47 winners of the Most Beautiful Planet if the awards have been going for 7,000 years, and it’s the Annual Universe Awards?

Jesus, that employee manual sounds nuts. Why doesn’t Bernie use a camera to film what’s happening to his world? He’s with the OWT. He must be able to find something he can use. Lenny cracked me up with his obsession with charms. And just how stupid is Shemal? He must have some idea of what a bully Billy is. Candi mentions that there are a lot of gods trying to get transferred out of Final Assembly. Wouldn’t that trigger some questions?

And in spite of all my bitching and moaning, I liked this. I want to read more. As a reader, I hated the ending ’cause I’ll have to wait to see what LeBel comes up with next. As an editor, I loved his ending — and Alcandor’s thinking! It’s a clever bit of deduction and the new vista this opens up is great fun for the series, for the new world, for Bernie, for everyone.

The Story
Bernie’s life has been chaos, almost as if this were a fairytale and an evil godmother had cursed him with his cloud of chaos. Today, however, today Bernie is jubilant for he has graduated as a builder. It’s everything he’s ever wanted, if he can get a job.

It seems Bernie’s luck is in when he gets placed in the pilot program. Until he finds out that Billy is in the cubicle next to him. He has two strikes against him already with Ezhra unsure of his ability and Shelam known as the toughest manager in The Business. But now Bernie will have to cope with deliberate sabotage and a hostile workplace.

Worse, we suffer with the people of Bernie’s new world as they try to cope with one disaster after another. Each event becoming worse and killing more of them, sending them into the panics our own world has experienced over the centuries. A conflict between science and religion, between two men wanting the same woman.

The Characters
Bernie is a young god with too great an interest in pacifism. At birth, he was “blessed” with a disorder cloud. Hannah is his mom and she works as a waitress at a Central Plaza restaurant. Simeon is his father, and he’s won three Universe Awards. A major achievement among the gods and obviously made him too good for his family.

The watchers, a.k.a., the lookies, in the wood are led by Bowin; he’s followed by Gingi, Catila, Renot, Gower, and Sibot. Groddix and nazarks are nasty beasts in the woods. Platus is a flying animal, a bird.

Suzie works in The Business’ HR department and has looked out for Bernie for years. She’s a bit in love with him. Lenny is Bernie’s only other god friend, and even he has a hard time with Bernie’s pacifism. Sissy is Lenny’s good luck charm. Saul and Ruth are Lenny’s parents. His Grandpa Titus usually has the family album. Artie is some kind of mute friend of Lenny’s.

Billy is a nasty bully of a kid, even as an adult, he’s still got an immature, warped mentality. All you have to do is read what he does on the weekends. Red Dog and Butcher were his “friends” back in The School. At work, he’s extorting Jimmy, Candi, and Donald into being his sheep. Shemal is Billy’s uncle. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t gang up on Billy and get him fired. Rachel is a healer his parents call in.

Shemal is a tough manager at The Business in the Final Assembly Division. Ezrah is Suzie’s boss, the Director of Personnel, and it’s up to him whether Bernie gets (or keeps) his job. Saul is in the Supply Division. Just pop on in and pick up a world.

The school
Caleb teaches elementary creation; Gabriel is creation ethics; Peter; and, Beatrice is a truly wonderful teacher. Wanda was one of those wunderkind students whom no one can ever surpass.

Peter owns Good Shimmer Products, and he supplies businesses with retail products. Isaiah owns the bookstore.

The Town is where the gods live, and it’s divided into five sectors with the first sector the center and most prestigious while the fifth sector is on the outskirts and most people disdain it. The Town is located in The World. The Business is the business of building universes — and it’s the most prestigious job a god can have. Not just any god can do it, you know. Refugees are creations a god brings home with him. A bit like kudzu. The Edge is as far as the gods have gotten in exploring The World. The School is where, yup, everyone goes to school. OWT is an Off World Technology group which is fascinated by technology found on intelligent worlds. Universe Putty is like glue and holds parts of the construction in place as you work.

The Annual Universe Awards have more categories than you can shake a stick at. There are three judges: Jazelda, Thomas, and Michael. The pilot program gives a new builder six months (or less) to wow his new employers. Or get fired.

Bernie’s universe
Speaker Zardok is the head of the religion, the High Priest of the Temple and Speaker for the Sun, which the people worship. Vianna was a free spirit who pursued “knowledge and the thrill of discovery”. Lord Alcandor is the world’s greatest scientist.

This world has a senate of lords and senators and includes Lord Rigel, Senator Grenwy, Lord Noseter, Lady Eonis, Priestess Ximow, and Senator Anitol. Lord Gondal is the leader. Tuderon is Gondal’s aide. Minister Landor is in charge of port facilities. Minister Wadov, Branton is the minister for science, Nottag is the minister for building projects, and Tonst is the minister for temple affairs.

Gaia is an integral part of a world.

The Cover
The cover is perfect as the background focuses on a young torso clad in a T-shirt, his hand stretched out to us with a young universe floating above that hand. It’s beautiful, miraculous with its tiny moon, mirror-like planet, and yellow sun. For this is the topic, the title, of Bernie and the Putty, a useful commodity, the duct tape of the universe.

But, please reverse the font sizes on the series name and the book title. I didn’t even know the title was there in its thumbnail size.

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5 responses to “Book Review: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel

  1. The building of universes made me think of a novel by Bernard Werber, so it’s not unknown to me yet the book looks catchy and your review interested me. On my list ! 😉

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