The Universe Builders

Bernie and the Putty

Young Adult - Fantasy - General
396 Pages
Reviewed on 11/08/2014
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

Author Biography

Businessmen are serious people, right? Not always. Steve LeBel — hospital president, technology entrepreneur, algorithmic trader — is definitely not serious. Not when he writes.
Whimsy overcomes him at the word processor. Whimsy is at the core of his novel, The Universe Builders, which is told with LeBel’s unique balance of seriousness, humor, and whimsy.

Steve lives in Muskegon, Michigan with his wife and two cats. When not writing, he can be found cursing the stock market, or thinking up new plots for The Universe Builders.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Stephen Fisher for Readers' Favorite

The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel is an epic science fiction novel about creation, and a race of shimmering gods that use something called universe putty to help mold worlds, and such. Get it? Kind of like Silly Putty, but on steroids. The story begins with Bernie, growing up in the shadow of his father, Simeon, one of the most renowned universe builders with three best universe awards. After his parents divorce, his father abandons Bernie and his mother. Forced to live in poverty, Bernie grows up with minimal friends. Billy is the bully that plagues Bernie his whole life, especially after Bernie came to his friend Suzie’s rescue. After Bernie graduates from school with a universe building degree, he applies for a builder's job, and lands a probational position with The Business. As an average student the odds are against Bernie from the start, especially when he finds out that his nemesis, Billy, is in the cubicle next to his. Billy’s uncle is the boss. Bernie is given a trial project of building a universe and if he passes, he gets a permanent position. Billy is out for revenge from day one, and sets out to sabotage any chances Bernie has.

Steve LeBel does a magnificent job of creating a race of gods that are, above all else, human, except for being immortal creators that is. Steve’s writing style pulls you into the story with a sense of humor that often occurs in the last line of a chapter. You simply cannot help laughing out loud, while turning the page to start the next chapter. Although this is an epic sci-fi novel, it is a marvelous story that will touch you in more ways than you would ever expect. The Universe Builders is smart, witty, creative, and captivating like nothing I have ever read before. Almost impossible to put down. Awesome!

Lit Amri

“Have you ever wondered about the universe? How it came to be? The purpose of it all?” Author Steve LeBel offers a comical yet fascinating (and thought-provoking) perspective about the mystical creators of the cosmos. In the Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty, the gods live in The Town, on a planet called The World, and they call their universe building job The Business. The story focuses one particular young god, Bernie. He gets a job after he graduated from the God School's building program. However, he struggles to impress his boss. Worse, his work is being sabotaged.

The Universe Builders is about gods, but it is also undoubtedly human in many aspects. Bernie is an underdog – even the gods have different standards. There are times when I have to remind myself that Bernie is a young god, not a young man trying to find his way in the (human) world. Then again, this is precisely what makes it worthwhile to go on the fascinating self-discovery journey with Bernie, chapter after chapter. LeBel makes the storytelling effortless, and as a result it is a mind-bending tale that can be enjoyed by both young and mature readers. The concept of the story is strong and unique. That said, some readers may not want to read this book if they are not open-minded about LeBel’s fictional perspective on gods and the universe’s creation. As a whole, the substantially layered story simply hooks you and leaves you with the understanding that self-belief and perseverance can be found in the most unlikely place or time.

Kim Anisi

When I read the title The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel, I suspected it might be a rather silly story but when I read the description of the plot, I was intrigued and decided to give the book a chance. I did not regret it. The main character, Bernie, is leaving school and starts his probation period in a company as a builder of universes. He has to convince his new boss that he is a worthy builder or face the consequences. Unfortunately, Bernie's enemy, Billy, is working in the cube right next to Bernie and does not want Bernie to succeed. It becomes even more complicated when Bernie accidentally leaves a jar of universe putty on his new planet. The consequences are rather intriguing, but all is in danger when Billy sets his mind on destroying Bernie's universe.

The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel is a very creative story and it makes you wonder what it would be like if we actually were just some sort of playground for a race of gods. The author is very good at creating characters that make the reader care. You truly want to know what happens to Bernie and his creation, especially a character called Alcandar. You grow quite fond of those characters, and you will dislike Billy very much. The story combines science fiction, coming of age, ethics and a bit of adventure in one wonderfully told story that keeps you glued to the pages.

Patricia Reding

When it comes to sheer, unmitigated creativity, Steve LeBel ranks high! In his Universe Builders, LeBel tells the story of Bernie, a young god, whose job is to create new universes. Bernie has a high calling and a tough act to follow. You see, his father from whom he is estranged, has won the Annual Universe Building contest—repeatedly. The pressure is on. But Bernie is sidetracked with friends, a crush on Suzie, a bully who is set out to destroy him, and unusual creatures that hang around in the nearby neighborhood forest.

The Universe Builders is classified as YA, but it is written such that middle-graders could read it and would surely enjoy it. The story is “clean,” and while the characters are not terribly deep, they are most certainly entertaining. But it is LeBel’s (apparently) bone-deep creativity that sets this work apart. With an unusual mixture of fantasy and what “feels like” science fiction, the universes in which Bernie and his young god friends live, and those they all contemplate building, are highly unusual. Consider, for example, warm-blooded trees, the ability to “blink” out a creation because it’s not working out so well (a thought the pacifist Bernie cannot abide), planets with portals linking them together for the ease of migration should the need arise in the future, or the idea of creating a new world in which the female of the life forms precedes the male form. (Shocking, I know. I understand that it caused quite a stir!)

I suspect that Bernie expresses something of an alter ego for LeBel. I base this on the story of Bernie’s educational pursuits. It seems that in his Creation Ethics 200 class, Bernie got a D+. Oh, he understood the material well enough—he just “refused to accept it.” So too, LeBel has refused to accept the possibility of creating a work like any that came before him. Thus, it is clear why he is an award-winning author.