People sometimes ask me how I locate books to read, in general it is through Press Releases or from authors that I have worked with in the past. Occasionally though books come through other esoteric routes. Cassie Draws The Universe is a shining example.

I received an email from the author, who cryptically signed it P. S. Baber! I have one of those horribly inquiring minds, what did the ‘P’ in P. S. stand for?

Bound and determined to crack the problem I agreed to review the book. I had no idea what the subject matter might be, not even an inkling as to the genre. My quest to answer the elusive question of the ‘P’ was one of the best pieces of happenstance to occur to me in a long time.

Cassie Draws The Universe is a book that I can not sing the praises of enough. This is a novel that takes the reader on a discovery of human nature. Much of which is dark and foreboding.

In the reviewing world there is a term ‘the hook’. It is the vehicle, often times a single sentence or paragraph early in the book that ‘hooks’ the reader. It sets the stage for the unfolding story. P. S. Baber (and yes, I do now know what the P stands for), sets the hook in the opening paragraph of the prologue. It is so powerful that I defy anyone to read it and not be be seduced by the message:

Approximately nine months from now, the body will be found soaking in a pool of tepid blood on the wood-paneled floor of a nondescript, two story, pale blue house. The blood will have escaped the body through an artificial orifice created by a .357 caliber bullet exploding through the back of the head. Though there will be no sign of forced entrance, tables and chairs will be found overturned. A telephone will hang limp from the wall. Upon the kitchen counter will sit an open, empty box wrapped in red cellophane and a white bow. Next to it will lie an opened manila envelope.

With the hook set, the author begins the strange journey of Cassie Harper. She is a 17 year old high school student, academically brilliant, but this is not as a result of the system, it is a result of her personal search for answers to her own questions. While P. S. Baber makes no reference to her report cards, I could see them in my minds eye. Grade: A – Teachers Comments: Surly and uncooperative in class.

Cassie Harper is also a loner. She has no friends, and is quite happy with that situation. Cassie is little by little imploding. Her one release is through her writings, poetry and short stories, but even these are dark explorations into her personal hell.

The arrival in town of a new English Lit teacher Mr. Cole and his daughter Amy change Cassie’s world. But is it for the better? A strange triangular friendship forms. Amy is drawn to Cassie, they share the common bond of sadness through loss. It might even be said that Amy admires the nihilistic outlook on life that her friend exhibits.

Mr Cole is equally drawn to Cassie, he sees true potential in this young lady. Outside of class (and occasionally in the classroom) the pair verbally enter into sparring matches. A verbal war that is far beyond the comprehension of those that witness it. Yet it is the glue that joins minister and acolyte. The big question is determining which is which.

I would be doing a huge disservice to P. S. Baber to share more of the plot. Instead I am going to tease you all. I read the first 60 or so pages, and I sat back and thought about it. Oh, I was hooked, and I had a hunch. It is a game I play. Name the classic author that might have penned the book if they had been alive today?

I was pretty certain that I had the answer George Orwell. Oh, not the drivel taught in school 1984 and Animal Farm, but the real Orwell, Keep The Aspidistra Flying, The Road To Wigan Pier, etc.

This started a wonderful email discussion with P. S. Baber. Rather like his protagonists in the book, Cassie and Mr. Cole, Simon and P.S. went at it over Orwell!

I did land a minor blow with a reference to Carp, (Coming Up For Air), but I’ll be willing to bet he has read that book by now 🙂

I cannot praise Cassie Draws The Universe enough. The writing is rich and meaningful. The reader is taken on a journey that they will never forget.

As a reviewer I never offer spoilers, and I am going to do the opposite, an ‘anti-spoiler’, the person referred to in the prologue is not Cassie!

You can order your copy of this excellent book from Amazon by using the link above. I also recommend that you visit Phil’s Oh damn, the secrets out! Anyway he has a web page.

Simon Barrett

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