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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Shaman and the Roseby Bill Haynes

This is a book sent to my by the author for free, to review. I've sat on it for some time. In part because I've had several other books I wanted to read, in part because I didn't have a lot of time, and in part because being a self-published book I feared the worst.

Unfortunately, my fears were not put to rest once I dug into it. Actually, we started out having my wife read it to me and my two sons in the car. We made it through two chapters, and the kids didn't want to hear any more. The problem from their perspective? A bunch of seemingly unrelated and random events happen. Stuff just happens. Vortexes appear, one minute we're saving a drowning boy, the next we're fighting vampires, then next we're in a cave, brought there by none other than a vortex, which seems to be a common vehicle in this world.

Their basic problem was they couldn't make much sense of what was going on. It was hard to follow. There was simply no connection with the story at all for them. And I had to agree. Some things simply didn't make sense, like when their car stopped working, and instead of walking down the road, for some unexplained reason, they felt they had to climb down a cliff to escape something (they ran as if fleeing for their lives, but no danger was given). Why they would risk life and limb when they could simply walk down the road to the nearest station was never explained. Or why they suddenly found themselves in a cave.

Tonight I decided I would pick it up at chapter 3 while I roasted coffee, to see if this redeemed itself. It didn't. More random events, though at least they're sticking to the theme of vampires. But that was preceded by freeing one of the characters from some bone prison (have no idea how she got there, maybe I missed something in all the mayhem) and I don't really know what was going on. One second you have her talking to a dragon, the next you're in another head, and the next another character inexplicably appears riding  a dragon and frees her.

I read part way into chapter 4 before giving up. This book simply wasn't worth my time to read further. Why was it so bad? Several reasons that I could pick up from reading these first four chapters.

One, the author uses a camera/omniscient view point, but pulls it off very poorly. A lot of the problems with it involve head jumping that is jarring and not smooth. It ends up being all over the place, one point looking at things from a narrator's view point, then into one head and then another, sometimes all three in the same paragraph. Following the author in this story is akin to chasing a rabbit through the woods.

His writing style doesn't help either. Often the actions, dialog, and/or thoughts of two or more characters are combined into one paragraph, making it hard to know who's head and view point we are supposed to be following. His action descriptions contain no feeling, no sense of tension. I felt more like someone observing the scene, but observing while a strobe light was flashing, making the actions jerky and difficult to follow.

Due to the above, we are introduced to at least six main characters in these four chapters, all of them seem to get equal time and none of them appear to be the primary point of view. Because we're jumping around in their heads so much, we can never settle in and get a sense of who they are. As a matter of fact, the characterization of these people didn't distinguish them much from each other. There simply was no way to really connect with the characters.

While maybe there is a plot to this novel, and if I was willing to wade through all this till the end of the book, maybe it would all come together and make sense, I was totally lost as to what was going on. Where it started out didn't seem to point to where it went in the few chapters I read. None of the events appeared to be related to each other save the barest of links. Some scenes appear totally pointless. Nothing happens and there's no attempt to move a story forward. As my sons said, stuff just happens randomly, and without any apparent reason other than it just does. Situations are introduced which don't seem to play a role in the story, like saving the boy from the lake. It's as if the author said to himself, "Hum, I need some excitement here, I think I'll have someone drowning and they can save him. Yeah, that will be cool." Whether that boy ever plays another role in this story from here on out is unknown to me, but my guess is that's the last we hear of him. But neither would I be surprised to find out he returns at some point as some powerful wizard that pulls their rears out of the fire, which such events have already happened.

Aside from an omniscient view point that isn't executed very well, a non-existent or hidden plot line/story, difficult to follow narration, head hopping, irrational decisions and dialog by the characters, one also finds overused and trite plot devices and dialog, an occasional typo (missing question mark, "trioka" spelled differently at times, .38 pistol spelled out in one paragraph and then use numbers two paragraphs from that, are three I recall off the top of my head), "as you know, Bob" dialog, deus ex machina resolutions, the old "look in the mirror and describe yourself" device, and a heavy reliance on adverbs, sometimes telling me what he just showed me, so a good bit of redundant narration.

Needless to say, all this made it very hard to connect with the characters or a story to hook me in. Maybe the story comes together later, but if it can't hook me within three chapters, it doesn't matter. Very few will get far enough to find out if it comes together. But I had the fear of wasting a lot of time reading it, only to discover it had left a trail of smoking gun plot devices that were never fired or resolved. Most people are going to feel the same way.

My suggestion for the author is to hone his craft more. Get it good enough to sell to a publisher rather than taking the shortcut route of self-publishing, because the inexperience shows here big time. If I could describe this novel in one sentence, it would be the author's attempt to throw everything but the kitchen sink into one book before he's taken the time to learn the basics of fiction writing.

And for the reader, this is not a book I would recommend, obviously. I wish I could, because I don't like giving negative reviews, but I have to be honest in my review of the work, and since the author sent it to me for that purpose, I feel I have a duty to give it. But I cannot recommend this book.

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