Search This Blog

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.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Flashpointby Frank Creed

If there is one thing that can be said about Flashpoint, it's this is not your father's Christian apocalyptic tale. This first book in Frank Creed's series (the next book is coming out soon, I understand), introduces us to a world controlled by a group referred to as "One-State Neros." This group attempts to subdue a rebel alliance of Christians who refuse to submit. It is into this group that Dave and Jen are thrown when their own church comes under attack and is captured.

But the world Dave and Jen find themselves in is nothing but unique. Reality finds enhancements with mind downloads, superhuman abilities, and fights that have a decidedly Matrix feel to them. Dave becomes Calamity Kid and Jen, E-girl as they take their places in this showdown and attempt to save their church family and parents from reformation by the Neros. What you end up with is a near-future world that is nevertheless significantly different, but very real.

The positives of this book are several. It has an originality few books have, especially in this sub-genre. The voice of the author itself is unique and compelling. The story and the world will keep you on your toes, and creates a very enjoyable ride through this intriguing world. If you like action, the book is packed with it. If you like cool abilities and science, this is for you. If you like all that with a dose of a distinctive Christian worldview, look no further.

But there are some areas a reader will need to be aware of going in. One, this book uses a lot of slang. If you have no idea what it means to slag something, that should give you an idea. I could usually figure out from context what the words meant, but even then, such terms tended to jerk me out of the story a bit until I became used to them, and I often had to recall what a specific term meant. Some terms I never was sure what they meant. The book is full of such slang, so if that kind of thing bothers you, take note and make your decision to read going in. If you're comfortable with that level of current slang, then you should have no problem.

The other issue that jumped out at me is the overuse of metaphors. He uses them frequently. That is not always bad in itself, but frequently the metaphors caused me (and my wife and kids) to pause the story trying to figure out what he was trying to say with it, because it was a bit obscure. And a few times the metaphors simply felt too much, overdone to the point of not directly linking with the thought being conveyed. The story even ends on one such metaphor we had to stop and figure out.

If you like such metaphor puzzles, this will not bother you much. If you just want to read without having to pause and think about what was being said, it might be an issue for you. I personally didn't mind them as much, but my kids and wife seemed to stumble over them more. We still enjoyed the story, however.

Due to the above, I sometimes had trouble following what was going on. I followed the basic plot all right, but in scenes I had this feeling of being a bit unsure if the picture in my head was what it should be, as if I might be missing something that would make it complete. Sort of like a puzzle with two or three pieces missing. I could make out the bigger picture, but I really would have liked to see it complete, and I'm not sure I did. But in fairness, I sometimes have trouble following narration/story with certain styles, and this felt that way to me. So it may be more me than the author on that point.

And any reader should know this is a Christian book. There is no attempt to claim it is anything but, yet some people may miss that point until they get to the first Bible verse mentioned in the text. They are sprinkled throughout. And while integrated well with the characters and the plot, those of the non-Christian variety, while appreciating the story itself, may find such things annoying. That said, I don't find here an attempt to preach, even though one will find a point made here and there. But generally it is more a showing than a sermon.

Myself, I found the book to be enjoyable. If the above issues don't bother you, I would certainly recommend the book. If they do give you pause, I would still recommend the book. I don't think they make the story inaccessible, and while you may have to work more than you'd like, you'll still find the ride enjoyable and interesting as I think there is a lot to be said for this author's vision and execution. Despite the road bumps I had personally with it, I still am glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone desiring to live a very different life though interesting characters.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Water Fight Goes All Antho

That's right. A YA space opera story I wrote has been accepted to be published in Residential Alien's new anthology: While the Morning Star Sings. It is scheduled to be published in May. The anthology is shaping up to be a great read, based on the authors I'm seeing who are making it in. So I'm looking forward to not only to see my own story in print, but also to read the other's.

You'll not want to miss it! Details will be forth coming.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New, Old Poem Now Up!

Back in 2007, I submitted a poem to, the magazine I worked at as an editor. After that, I later became the managing editor. The other editors liked it, but they also asked for a revision. As it happens, I became distracted and forgot all about that revision. So the other day I was browsing through our stash when I re-read the discussion thread on this one and realized that I had a rewrite pending. So, I rewrote it and now, about two years after I wrote it, it has finally gone into print.

It is called, The Angel of My Desire. I was inspired by the quick connection between mother and child, even before they leave the womb, but certainly after. And the emotion of a baby who has a disease that would send them to a early grave making that connection all the more striking.

So click on the title above and enjoy.