SPFBO Cohort Vague Review #5

Yes, I’m still doing this. 24 to go, bitches. Then I’ll read my own book last, and declare, without any hint of bias, that it was clearly the best. You know, because.

Well that took a long time. No knock on the quality of the book, I’ve just withered as a reader, and now find I only ever read novels, on my kindle, when on a treadmill. (I still read comics in bed. Sue me.) There was a phase of inactivity, shall we say, that this unsurprising month has brought to an end. For how long of course remains to be seen, because once I can regularly walk outside, I do, and I just can’t be that guy clutching a book and reading while walking through marvelously windswept landscapes, waiting for the inevitable pratfall. I’m too old for that crap. I might fall and not be able to get up.

So anyway, book #5. Before the break I was really into it, loved the writing style, admired the writer’s craft and skill with words and imagery, was intrigued by the story and the characters who inhabited it. After the break, I’d lost engagement, the style sometimes seemed overblown, I started wondering about anachronisms, and the varying viewpoints lost their grip. And there were more typos as the book went on. Or was I just being a Grinch and noticing them more? I really can’t say. (I did mutter that an AI, at least the early ones, wouldn’t have any typos, the mid-genration ones might, just to hint at being human, the late gens won’t care.)

I think this really points to how your perspective, and where you are as a reader can radically effect your engagement with, and enjoyment of, a text. I’ve written before how time changes subject matter, the same book 20 years apart is transformed by your lived experience, because not one single word has changed, yet your interaction with the story and characters can be radically different, and often much richer. Sorry young ‘uns, them’s the breaks. But think of the surprises ahead of you! In this case I was away long enough to fall out of the book’s spell, and rather than be lulled back into it the second time, I began to dissect why it wasn’t working for me as I read, which is really no way to give a work of fiction a chance to exist as it should, shining in your mind, entrancing you. If it instead becomes an object to be examined, a crystal to be peered through and tapped at, there’s no wonder it breaks down.

For all that, the book still made me walk for 78 minutes straight to finish the last 10-15% in one go when previously I’d been biting it off in 30 minute chunks. I finished the book still admiring the writer’s style, and thinking that they will only get better, and that will be very good indeed. That’s the second writer I’ve read in this group where I really feel a sense of their potential pushing through the pages, promising me they’ll be even better next time around. I’ve got to tell you, that’s a heartening feeling, and I hope these writers stick at it, and surprise themselves with what they can do tomorrow. The story had a strong ending: there have been a few of those already, but this one still left enough dangling threads that a sequel would be easy to create, but not feel forced – if the book stayed as a stand alone, I’d like it as a window into that world, with intriguing day-dreamable possibilities left to ponder upon. See? Maybe some of the spell lingered after all.

Before the break this was going to be my favorite of the five, now I’m so far divorced from all of them I can only say this was another excellent representation of self-published fantasy talent, and probably still my fave so far. LOL.   

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