Steve's colorful professional background and whimsical sense of humor made for a delightful ride in Bernie and the Putty. His wit and creativity truly poured forth in the pages of what I'll admit was one of the most original stories I've come across in awhile. This book was the grand prize winner of this year's Writer's Digest Self-Published Ebook Awards. Steve's book is also an Amazon bestseller in the Science and Fantasy Fiction categories, and fully deserves the title.
Bernie, our main character, is a young god who has recently graduated from college with a degree in Universe Building. He gets a job at The Business and is given the opportunity to show his boss what he's made of over the span of his probationary period with the company. Bernie is hardworking and passionate, but his efforts to craft a unique and impressive world are thwarted by Billy, the bully that's been haunting Bernie's footsteps since the incident in high school that left Billy with an ugly scar across his face. Billy doesn't forgive and certainly doesn't forget, so years later, he's out to make life a living hell for Bernie, who's chances of building a career around universe creation get slimmer every day.
Bernie's problem-solving skills are put to the test as he struggles to find ways to save his world from Billy's destructive attacks while abiding by his personal morals. But Bernie isn't entirely alone. His friends are few yet loyal, and they stick with him till the end, offering ideas, advice and encouragement, and ultimately pushing him to succeed. Bernie's heartbreak is difficult to bear as he watches helplessly time and time again while Billy tears apart everything he does. But Bernie's gentle nature lends him a patience to deal with these things in a more level-headed manner than many young people would in our own world. Steve created a character that is a refreshing change from the heroes of mainstream fiction today. Bernie's story advocates the idea that compassion and creativity are traits that should be fostered in the young (and old) rather than solving our problems with revenge or acting from anger.
Of course, Bernie isn't perfect, and that's what makes him such a relatable character. Besides his daily (and nightly) struggles at work to bring home money to his single mother, he must live with the title of son of a master universe builder and three-time award winner--Bernie's own father, Simeon. Bernie's father, unfortunately, didn't stick around to use his success to provide for his family, nor pass on his skills to Bernie. Bernie battles with strong emotions regarding this abandonment throughout the story, making him an enduring protagonist to young people who have grown up in a split family. Steve did a wonderful job of weaving the real life themes of love, loss, moral dilemmas, and the classic underdog story into the tale of Bernie and his adventures.
Steve fashioned a exceptionally immersive world in his book, tactfully providing detailed insight into the ins and outs of his characters' universe(s). His descriptions are both artistic and scientific, and make you feel truly involved in Bernie's world. The environment of every setting in the story can be clearly pictured in your mind as you read. The undertones of the more serious issues dealt with in Bernie's story are balanced with a light-hearted whimsy. I got a good chuckle more than once out of the unexpectedly humorous situations Bernie and his friends often found themselves in.
Though the book moved a tad slow for me at first, (which is admittedly another reason why it took me so long to finish), it was more than worth it. The end of the book had me mentally rejoicing along with Bernie and his newfound family as he enjoyed the success he had worked so hard to achieve and fully deserved. The story was heart warming, well written and edited, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different--it is a very unique blend of genres indeed.
Steve Lebel is an author I won't soon forget, not only for his award-winning novel. He is a fun, helpful and caring person who is excellent at what he does (management, marketing, computer programming, financial analysis, and now writing). On my good days, I wish I had half the creativity and imagination he has. I met him online last year when things were just starting to pick up after the publishing of his book. Since then, I've "watched" over the months as the Universe Builders has merited nothing but sale success and accolades from readers, writers, reviewers and judges. I'm proud to officially be among Steve's readers and fans.
The Universe Builders, Book One: Bernie and the Putty is a gem in children's and young adult fantasy fiction that will have your mind thoroughly entertained, your sides aching from laughter, and your heart filled to the brim by the end of the story.
Well done, Steve. Can't wait for the next book!
The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty can be purchased online at Amazon as an ebook or in its paperback form in all its glossy, high def-cover glory (which also merited raving by the Writer's Digest judges and was apparently put together by Steve's talented daughter). Click here to purchase straight from Amazon, but be sure to also check out the Universe Builders website where Steve posts updates on his blog and offers fun and interesting free stuff.
Steve can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. Do follow him. He is a most considerate re-tweeter. :)