Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel
Who creates the universes? Gods called Builders do, out of putty and power. Bernie has just graduated from school and applies to become a Builder. He almost doesn’t get the job, but the Personnel manager’s assistant, Suzie, sees potential in Bernie and convinces her boss to hire him. Bernie gets placed under the strictest Builder Final Assembly manager, Shemal.
Bernie’s cubicle is next to his high school nemesis, Billy. Billy had already been working a year and he has always hated Bernie. It got worse after Bernie left a scar on Billy’s face. It wasn’t Bernie’s fault, exactly, but Billy still blames him. So when Bernie starts his first project, Billy gets meaner and starts sabotaging Bernie’s work.
With his friends Ezra and Suzie’s advice, Bernie gets a world started. But every time he gets it growing the way he wants, he comes in the next morning and discovers something wrong. He is on probation and Shemal is NOT impressed. Billy’s after hours treachery is well hidden, even from Bernie.
Steve LeBel uses a clever idea for Bernie and the Putty and the Universe Builders. It reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s Strata. Gods are people like everyone else. They just also have the power to build living worlds and universes. They have some handy gadget to help the work, such as a time telescope to view the world in it’s potential future to see how the last change the Builder made pans out over the next centuries and millennia of the new universe. LeBel has his world well conceived with many open spaces for expansion in future books.
Bernie, Suzie, and Billy are obvious stereotypes. Bernie is the nerd who happens to have a chaos cloud attached to him. Suzie is the girl who loved him in school and still does, but Bernie doesn’t see it. Billy is a manipulating bully. He is Shemal’s nephew and uses that relationship to terrorize all the low level Builders in the department.
Bernie and the Putty won or was a finalist for numerous awards in 2014-5, including winning the Writer’s Digest award and the Independent Author’s Network top awards. (Check out the Amazon page linked below for a full list.)
I find Bernie and the Putty to be an average read. It is predictable from the beginning although the details have to work out throughout the book. There’s an extra, hidden civilization on Bernie’s world that doesn’t play an important enough role to make it necessary. It’s a side story that doesn’t help the book. Bernie and the Putty is a fun young adult fantasy with a different twist. The only dragons are the ones Builders create to populate their worlds.