Monday, April 15, 2024

The Cyclopes' Eye Review #IndiGo

Title:  The Cyclopes’ Eye

Series: The Cyclopes’ Eye, Book One

Author: Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/09/2024

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 103000

Genre: Science Fiction, Lit/genre, young adult, sci-fi, family-drama, dystopian, medical procedures, twins, eyes, medical research, conspiracy

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First, they came for his sister’s eye. Now they’re coming for his—and what’s even worse is he deserves it.

Henry has never had anything good happen to him, period. That’s why, after school, he’s going to put on his big-boy pants and confess his love to his best friend—because the universe owes him one, dammit, and he needs a win.

But maybe it wasn’t the best idea to do it on Drill Day—the one day a month that healthcare conglomerate Axiom infiltrates schools across America to select a new candidate to give up one of their eyes, for… research? When the new candidate is selected, Henry’s plans go awry, and he and his friends must figure out how to escape from Axiom. But when the past threatens to eat him alive, things aren’t as easy as they seem.


The Cyclopes’ Eye
Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius © 2024
All Rights Reserved

This isn’t what I signed up for, but that seems to be a common thread in my life these days. So, sure, universe, you do you. Pile something else on top of the mess.

I can’t see straight, for starters. I’m on a bus from hell, and everything’s a blur, and I don’t know what’s worse—keeping my eyes open to watch the world zip by, or squeezing them shut and letting my stupid, stupid imagination do the work. When I close them, every bump in the road feels like I’m being launched into space, so maybe for now I’ll keep them open. But both options are awful. Both are making me sick.

I’ve been on the verge of puking all morning, and nothing seems to help. Especially not this driver. Some tragic car accident blocked the route we normally take, so we had to go on a long detour. And now that we’re running behind, the driver’s been speeding and turning corners like this is a rollercoaster and not a school bus.

Oh god, do not think about rollercoasters right now, Henry.

No, this is just a bus. A bus. Sure, we’re going well above the speed limit, but at least not, like, a thousand miles an hour.

Okay, calm down. What are the facts? Think of what’s around you. The bus is almost at full capacity today, with only one person missing: Judith, who’s been home from school. So, if she’s not here, that means there are eighty-eight people around you.

God, that’s so many.

No, that’s not so many. That’s a normal amount, Henry!

Okay, eighty-eight people, plus me, is eighty-nine. Double that, and we get—take your time, Hen; use your fingers if you have to—a hundred seventy-eight. There should be a hundred and seventy-eight eyeballs on this bus…except we know there are five patched kids on our route this year—six if we count…well, no, she’s not here. A hundred and seventy-eight, minus five stolen eyes, equals a hundred and seventy-three.

Wait, what about the driver? Is that why he’s driving so crazy, because he’s an eye short?

I glance up to the mirror above him to double check—only I can’t tell because he’s wearing sunglasses. Even at six thirty a.m., the California sun is blinding. But that’s all right; I don’t need to know.

A hundred and seventy-three. That’s how many eyes are on this bus.




Slowly, the breaths come. My lungs expand, and the nausea begins to fade. It helps, knowing a simple statistic like that. But it’s weird, and if people knew I counted eyeballs in my head, I would die. Actually curl up and die.

Or maybe everyone does that in secret. Maybe everyone is a secret freak like me.

A loud screech. My head plows into the seat in front of me. Ow!

The driver slammed on his brakes! As soon as I realize what’s happened, anger builds in my chest. What in the actual fuck is this fucking driver doing? He’s trying to kill us! I want to scream my head off, scream until the windows shatter. Until this guy’s ears explode, because screw him!

But I won’t. I never scream when I want to. Not anymore. Instead, I sit on my hands and start to count eyes again, while I let the world shift back into place.

All around me, people are moaning and groaning.

“Dude, what the hell?” someone shouts.

I look over, and the girl across the aisle is rubbing her neck, her eyes closed and mouth downturned in obvious pain. The girl next to her has her head between her legs. At first, I think she must be as sick as I was feeling, but she starts searching around for something on the floor and finally retrieves her phone. When the screen lights up, there’s a giant spiderweb of cracks across it.

Slowly, the bus lurches forward, and I no longer feel like screaming. The anger is abating, and it morphs into something closer to pity as I remember for the hundredth time what today is: Drill Day. If the driver doesn’t get us to school on time, he’ll be accused of trying to help us escape. He’ll get his eye taken out.

I can’t be mad at him for saving his own ass, even if it means ushering me to what very well might be my own demise.

Oh god. I feel a gurgle deep in my stomach. And so it begins. Again.

Image by Eden Moon from Pixabay

Ornery Owl's Review

Four out of Five Stars

This overall well-written dystopian novel is not an easy read. Henry is a troubled young man growing up in a society where there is very little freedom of choice. At any time, Henry or one of his fellow students could be selected to "donate" an eye to a corporation called Axiom to further their research. Axiom claims the eyes they take will help them find cures for vision problems, but there is very little evidence to support this assertion.

Henry's family is impoverished. He and his twin sister, Judith, are malnourished and have very few clothes. The utilities are often turned off. Their mother was imprisoned years ago for trying to kill their abusive father. Judith's father agreed that Axiom could take his daughter's eye in exchange for an opulent new house that will be theirs for a lifetime.

When Axiom also wants to take Henry's eye, he rebels. In a fit of rage, he beats his father nearly to death. When Judith and Henry are brought to the hospital along with their badly wounded father, Henry learns just how sinister Axiom's mysterious motives are and how much danger they present.

The story is compelling and I had no trouble following along with it. Although the book is in the young adult genre, I would not recommend it to readers younger than their late teens. There is a great deal of violence in the narrative. While the violent narrative fits the story, it could be disturbing for younger or more sensitive readers. 

Although I tend to be reasonably desensitized to gruesome depictions, I am never keen on descriptions of animal abuse. Although the narrative fits with Henry's troubled character, the description of him pulling the legs of Daddy Longlegs spiders bothered me and made me less kindly disposed to him. I wonder if it was really necessary to include this scene, and I feel the book would have been just as gritty and impactful without it.

I found Henry's switching back and forth between referring to one of the major antagonists in the story as Madame Berenice and "my nurse" distracting. It was already established that he knew her as Madame Berenice. It only needed to be mentioned once that she was acting in the capacity of his nurse at the hospital. He didn't need to keep referring to her as "my nurse" to reinforce this. 

Fair warning to those who prefer a clear ending when reading a book: this story ends on a cliffhanger that promises future books in this series. Other issues to be aware of include self-harm, suicide ideation, and body horror. 

I recommend this book for mature readers who enjoy gritty, dystopian fiction and who aren't put off by sometimes graphic depictions of violence. 


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius rarely knows what’s happening. He works in healthcare by day and writes weird fiction and poetry by night. His shorter work has been featured in numerous literary journals and has been nominated for prizes, including Best of the Net. He currently lives in the Midwest with his unbelievably handsome and perfect dog, and also a human whom he loves. The Cyclopes’ Eye is his debut novel.

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One lucky winner will receive a $50.00 NineStar Press Gift Code! 

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