The Eye of the Beholder

Scotomaphobia- Fear of going blind

eye of the beholderCount the whispers. Hear their silence. Count the specks of dust on that lens you call an eye. Clutch at the black spaces in between. Scream at the fingers that come slowly, reaching, taking those specks away one at a time: specks of life, specks of light as the lens is capped. Darkness.

I swim there in my dreams; drown in my nightmares. All is dark… but I am not asleep. I rip the caps from my eyes; lids spring up: open. My pillow whispers silently, draws me back into the nightmares, but my head is no longer there. I hear the wind creaking in distant trees; hear their sad whispers. They drift to me through window slats; play with the darkness; crawl up my skin. My hair stands up, each wagging a solitary finger at the cold air. My face feels its bite, breaking through the sweat already cold, resting there. I cannot see the wind.

Breathe in. Breathe out. The scent of my musty shack. Damp wood from last night’s rain is slapped together around me, above me, beneath me: a wet almost rich enough to taste… but not to see.

My feet swing round, hit the floor, body braced for the impact. Too late. Bare soles slap the cold, wooden planks. The chill rushes from feet to head, like the first crack of a lightning storm. My head rumbles in reply. It swims through the darkness, swims in pain. The blackened nightmare of wakefulness begins to spin.

One hand reaches to my head, the other for — the wall, a lamp, bed frame — something, probing forth in the ink. The world is rolling, my hand is waving, then, I am rolling. My head finds the wall before my hand: the second crack of this storm.

My heart beats the bass drum in this song, but not a steady beat. Like a spasmodic drummer, it knocks faster and faster, screaming inside its cage. My skin crawls. I sweat. I shake. I fall. I feel the cold wood against my face, hear my heart drown out the wind’s whispers, smell my own fear, see… darkness.

The lens caps have been polished and cleaned, all specks of life stolen. They have been worked at to perfection, my darkness complete. I reach for a cane, a walking stick, something to hold me up, to centre me, to direct me in the night. My eyes give me no aid; neither do my possessions. I am not ready for this darkness to remain, not ready, not ready… not ready.

I squeeze my eyes shut and open, shut and open. Blink, flash, dark, dark: no change in what I do not see. Not even a perceived change from red to black: the heat of wakefulness on closed eyes. Are they closed? Are they open? I poke. It stings. They are open. No darker spot appears where I have poked, no greater blackness added as I prod my eye, or close it against the self-inflicted pain.

I have never been afraid to sleep, never afraid to dream. Everyone must follow the gods of nature, Time herself the dictator. All sleep, all dream, all have nightmares as Time dictates. All wake. These truths are unchanged, and not to be feared. However, one unknown stands admits them all, a Judas in their ranks. Not all open their eyes.

Blink. Fresh tears gather in my lashes, the darkness shifting from black to wetted greys. My tears shift from those of fear, to those of joy, drying on my cheeks. I press one foot beneath me, then the other, hand on wall to calm my head. The rain in my eyes stops; the pounding of my head stills; the lightning shooting through my veins is no more. I leave the storm on the floor with nightmare whispers.

The switch flicks up, light-bulbs buzzing with new-found vigour. Shadows recede to the corners, leaving nothing but dust behind. The dust of my house. The dust of my home. Dust, those specks of light, specks of life, on a discarded lens cap.

One room still sits in darkness, waiting to be disturbed. It sits how it always has: alone and waiting. I turn the wick up on that oil lamp, the only light in that room. There is no electric buzz here, no distractions from that outer world to this still room. No voices from my pillow, no storm from the floor. It is a world of my own, lit by that single lamp, but coming to life beneath my fingers. Tap, tap, tap, the oil-wrought light illuminates those keys, but I need no aid from it. My mind, vision, slips into the world of taps, world of clicks, world where I am the only God. I am the God of Light, the God of Life, the God of Sight.

No one in my world, the one I control, will ever go blind. No one here needs eyes. Why? Because my finger clicks say it is so. My imagination makes it real. No eyes, no need: seeing with the mind.

Blink. My eyes flash: open, closed, open, closed. My fingers fly: tap, click, tap, click. This new world swallows me: a world without darkness to claim the light, without eyes to go blind, without that fear stalking from every shadow and screaming everywhere else.

The lights in that outer room blink, spark, flash, go out. The empty lamp bowl screams for more light, cries for my attention, a new bulb to be set in place, but I fear not its silent cries. They are pillow whispers to me. Tap, click, tap, click, light bounces from my fingers, but does not enter that outer-room. It sits in darkness now, in a world I do not control. The lamp is blind, but I am not. That room is blind, but mine is not.

~~~

My chair creeks behind me as I lean back, stretching life into my limbs. Elbows pop. Fingers crack. One final click from that typewriter at which I sit. My world lays silent once again as I press that final key. Full stop.

Light bounces through the window, a joyous morning greeting. It shatters my world of darkness, bounces off the glass clock-pane, spills down on my keys. A short crank and low gong breaks the silent morning: that clock face, bright and shining, chiming out its tune.

I turn the oil lamp down; shut off the artificial flame. A little oil from the lamp should be spilled on my chair wheels. They squeak out quick complaints as I stand, leave the room, leave my world in silence, blind to what might come with the next phrase: the next clicks from my itching fingers. The possibilities bounce about my tired mind, quickly shut out by a new pain: new, but familiar.

I clutch at the door frame, the blackened barrier of that outer world returning. A sharp pain, a quick flash, darkness blocks out all thought, all sight, all control. I stand on shaking knees, see the blindness fade as quickly as it came. My foot stomps down hard, grounding me. My head shakes, greasy locks sliding forth and back.

My coat is waiting, keys are waiting, lock ready to be clicked in place. The light in my outer room still waits for a new bulb, but I hear not the complaint. Light, darkness, sight? They are out of control in this world not of my creation. Here, I am not God. Just a man going blind.

The path greets my feet, and I offer my silent reply. Every step is cherished. Every moment is precious. I watch my feet, measure my steps, keep my head low. The high collar of my coat blocks peripheral, a vision too oft filled with darkness, curiosity turning my eyes to unhealthy places. I chance a twist, chance a glance, chance a look from the path. The sun shoots down from above, bullets to my eyes. Giant red splotches burst like flowers set to bloom, but these flowers hold no beauty. They expand, unfold, fill my eyes like caps on lenses.

I close my eyes, block out the sun, block out the headache arising. My hand shakes as it searches in my coat for darkened glasses. Throwing them on my face, they sit awkward on one ear, off the other. Those red spots recede slowly as my eyes open… too slowly. They creak from darkness into light like a door with monsters to one side. Will I be blind when they open? Will the world still greet me? Will the God of this world grant me one more day to glance at His wonders, touch them with my sight?

The doors creak open. Light pours in. Those red flowers close again. They are nothing but tiny specks now, memories of the sun’s assault… nightmares from my past. Gladness rushes in. I am not ready to go blind.

A stick cracks over my knee, the perfect length for my legs. It presses hard into my palm, firm against the ground. I feel comfort in its presence, some calm as we walk together. I cannot get lost, cannot stumble with this stick to guide my way. Open, close, open, close, my eyes laugh at me with each blink. In the world of my creation, men do not have eyes. No need for eyes, no fear of going blind. It is perfect. Blink. This world is flawed. Blink. I hope God does not curse me for such a thought.

~~~

His coat is white, a grotesque colour to assault my open lenses. They sit beneath my darkened glasses while his white stands, brilliant and glowing beneath those harsh lights above. I press into the cold chair, a machine swings into place, inches from my face. I flinch. I blink. It stops.

“I’m sorry Mr. Olar. You will have to take the glasses off now.” The white coat looks apologetic, though I can hardly see it beyond the stark flashing cloth.

“Can you dim the lights, just — just a touch?” I ask, but my hands are already reaching for the darkened lenses which shield me.

“I’m sorry, sir. These lights don’t dim.” He smiles, a customary response to my customary question.

I grunt, but feel worse that these lips can say. My protection comes off, slowly, but the speed does not help. The lights above buzz with delight, laughing at my squints. I clutch at the machine in front of me, wish for it to claim my peripheral sight, cushioned in special lenses.

It slides into place. The light fades. Nothing but harsh black letters against a white sheet to scream at me.

“Okay, Mr. Olar. What do you see?”

I read the letters off slowly, cherishing the moment. They get smaller. I squint harder. The page is a mess of blurry figures. One lens after another they come, sliding back and forth, adjusting my ability to see: an ability which I cherish.

The machine slides away. Those laughing lights above return to taunt me. The white coat of my doctor is nothing compared to what comes next. I want to close my eyes, but know he will just force them open again. His pointer shines, that wand of death seeking me out. I have no control, stuck in this chair, eyes growing wide. Right, left, right left, the light pierces both sockets, leaves my lenses screaming, red flowers appearing once again. As they recede I hear his words.

“You are doing quite well, Mr. Olar. No need to come in next week. Still no need for glasses.” He laughs, a poor attempt to calm me. His kind smile is better, but still unheard.

I pull glasses from my coat pocket and fix them once again to my face. He may think that I need no glasses, but my eyes lack such education. The world dims, those lights above softened, his white coat turning dull and grey. My short sigh sounds like a grunt, and feels little better.

“See you next week.” Another suggestion ignored. I can never be too careful. Not ready to go blind.

~~~

Shamblers. Fumblers. Men crying in the night. The sky has fallen, the moon a reflection beneath my feet, a reflection of the sun. I could run instead of shamble. I could flee instead of fumble. But I would be running blind, fleeing from the ground itself, an impossible feat indeed. Dark, light, dark, light, there is nothing but this change. The sun spins around this new earth-moon apocalyptic world like a gyro going wild. Spin. Flash. Dark. Light.

I blink… to no effect. Am I asleep? Am I awake? Too much is the same for me to tell: the fear, the pain… the darkness. My head hits the floor, and I know that wakefulness has me now. Cold wood, not rough moon stone.

I still shamble, still fumble, still feel that pain pounding a course in my head. I flick the switch. Nothing. Not even a red glow against my useless eyes comes to taunt me. This is true blindness like never before, and it is out of my control.

My headache fades, the pounding turning soft as I clutch knees to my chest. I shake: a man crying in the night. Open, close, open, closed: dark, dark, dark, dark. All is the same. All is blind… even me.

I get up, feeling the defeated fool. Crawling like a child – knee, hand, knee, hand – I find a cracked stick on the ground. It is nothing special, nothing great, not intended for the blind. I was not ready, not prepared, but it will have to do. I press it on the ground and try to stand. My legs shake. Heart quivers. I stand.

The stick swings forth and back, tapping the ground in an arc before me. It is not the knowing clicks of a blind man’s stick, directing his way, but the wild waving of a man-turned-child by fear itself. My knee finds a table edge, something my waving stick should have found, but our communication is unpractised. From table edge to door frame my knee travels, stick slapping forth and back against the jamb: a too late warning.

Everything in this room is right how it should be. My hands crawl along the table, walking stick resting against the door. The oil lamp radiates with light, with life, as I turn that nob… and I can see. Shocked, stunned, what other words can I use? Even a writer’s finger clicks and tongue clacks can grow heavy. The light outside my little room, little world, is still dark.

An afraid man? A curious child? One of the two (or both) finds me at the door again. Up, down, up, down, I flick the switch. The light is gone. The bulb is dead. Now I hear the silent screams. A laugh boils out of my lips, but not of joy: nervous energy crying for release.

I find a bulb amidst the dust in some oft used drawer, screw it into the slot, and those red flowers return. The light blinks on, harsh and white without the shade set in place. I shove the glass bowl against the bulb, twist it into place. Those flowers in my lenses die, wilted by the dim light, not enough to grow by. I stamp my foot, shake my head, ground myself again. Grunt: the most relief I will get.

My fingers fly against those keys, walking stick leaning lonely in the corner. I keep it with me now on such nights, all nights, when darkness threatens to hold me. I shape my world without a care, lost again in the magic my words create. Great black sheets are thrown against the window frame to block the morning when it comes. In here, I am in control. In here, I have everything I need.

Nights go by with finger clicks and days go by with my stick tapping against the ground. Practise, practise, practise. I must be ready for when that day comes… the day when I will go blind. Behold, it stalks me, around the corners, closer now; each day my vision seems to fade. Some nights I cannot close my eyes, not afraid of the dreams or sleep, but what will happen (or not happen) if and when I open those eyes again. Some nights I wish it will come, end my suffering, claim my sight once and for all. But I have no control.

I sit in this writing chair, wheels still creaking, in need of oil, fingers still flying, in need of control. There is one piece left to this puzzle of life, one thing left to calm my fears. My walking stick stands just inside my reach. Black lenses rest in my coat pocket. Closed, open, dark, light, it doesn’t matter: my gait is the same. Practise, practise, practise. I am waiting, I am prepared, ready to go blind.

My pens sit just to one side, black against the white paper like letters to test my vision. I pick them up, one at a time, reciting the letters from memory. I hum the letter-tune, my heart playing the bass. It is still, almost silent. Calm. Ready. One twist, one thrust, one jab, and it is done. I have the control. I am ready to go blind. I hardly feel the pain, numbed over my life by fear.

I tap, I click, I shape my world. In this world I have control. In this world no one has eyes, no need for them. In this world people see with their minds. Tap, click, tap, click. In my world, people see with their imagination. Tap, click, tap click. I never lose my place, never lose sight of those keys. The oil lamp has long since died. The lights outside my world have long since called silently for attention. I care not. In this world, I need no light, no eyes. I my world, I cannot go blind.

Credits:

Music (In order of appearance)
Metropolis Ruin by Fireslice at Jamendo
Ambient Darkness by DJ Chronos at Freesounds
Echoes of Fall by Razvan Veina at Jamendo
Now by Antonio Fiorucci at Jamendo
Limbo? by DirtyJewbs at Freesounds
 
Sound Effects (all provided by Freesounds)
typewriter22.ogg by tams_kp
BreakingSticks by qubodup
Crying 4.wav by ecfike
whispers and screams by Fyodore
Chaos & Screams.flac by qubodup
DSLR mirror slaps by satanicupsman
00888 gride 2.wav by Robinhood76
doctoroffice.mp3 by NoiseCollector
Whoosh Puff by Speedenza
Dbl Click.mp3 by 7778
Ringing in ears1.wav by Hardance
jacket zipping and rustling by Ownederd
keys_rattle6.wav by vibe_crc
Stomp.wav by 000600
chair_sitting_1.wav by FreqMan
Crack Knuckles Bones.wav by spenceomatic
Light Bulb Pop.mp3 by CGEffex
01582 installing light bulb.wav by Robinhood76
man walking away indoors with leather leathery shoes footsteps foley.wav by bulbastre
Igniting Candle Lighter.wav by baidonovan
Thunder Clap OWB KY 441×16.wav by Dave Welsh
00818 wake up 2.wav by Robinhood76
Thump.wav by Macif
Vinyard Walk.wav by digifishmusic
20080918.breathing.wav by dobroide
whispers.wav by thanvannispen
cap close.wav by whorn1
00984 wood hit 4.wav by Robinhood76
SonicSnaps-IDES-FR-white-cane-diff-surfaces.wav by thecityrings
Moaning Chair.aif by Housed1J
Hard HIT in the head.aif by amsempl
mild_surprise_breath.ogg by smcameron
buzz harmonic.aif by lukaspearse
Light Turning On & Off.wav by mookie182
Wind Houling 1 .wav by Bosk1
typewriter_type.wav by tjandrasounds
ClockStrikes12Remix.flac by acclivity
Ticking Clock by AntumDeluge
Heart Beat by thenudo
 
Cover Art
Created by Daniel J. Weber using the following images:
Eye see you 3 by Kit Keat on Flickr

Slow Boat to Purgatory by Vernon Baker

Purgatory: it’s only one slow boat away.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG (Coarse language and mature themes)

Purgatory: that mythical place between Heaven and Hell, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place where people pay for their sins in hopes of gaining entry to Heaven. At least, that’s how most people think of it. To Vernon Baker is is a great place to tell a story.

The Good:

Slow Boat to Purgatory is the story of a man reading a story. Doesn’t that make you want to buy it? No really, it should. The reader has a unique opportunity to learn about the person behind the story, see their life as it plays out, and watch them escape into the pages. The story jumps between this reader’s point of view, and the telling of his life, into the story he is reading. The change is voice and point of view add flavour as the pages unfold, keeping the reader enraptured by what Baker has to say.

Not only does this keep things fresh, but it adds suspense to the telling. The reader finds out what is happening in snippets, and just when things are picking up, we are launched from the world being read back into reality, left asking, “what happens next! Why is the sad cebu sad?”

Reader engagement is kept until the very end. As the final pages are turned, curling under the weight of suspense, just enough questions are answers to tie things together, but enough is left in play to provide for future books.

The Bad:

Because of the nature of the telling, there is a fair amount of back-story. I usually love back-story. I love how it adds flavour to a tale, rounds out the characters, makes the book beautiful. Alas, this is not the case in Slow Boat to Purgatory. Much of the back-story is told through long sections of passive voice which are bland and uninteresting. Unfortunately, they also add little to the actual story, thus a failure on two accounts of potential magic.

The story itself isn’t bad, once it gets going. The problem, however, is that if you have a wonderful sports car, but the starter is shot, and you spend half a day grinding until it catches… the driver may lose interest. The back-story issues hit a little harder than they should because the story itself also takes far too long to progress. Pieces of the puzzle start to fit together about 50% of the way through, at which point the reader is almost ready to retire the sports car and just walk to the store. (The book store, obviously. What other type of store is there?)

Though it ends well, there are a number of elements introduced later on in the book that are simple grazed over, having no real impact on the plot. They appear to be important factors at first, but sadly are almost just thrown in for flavour, lacking substance and making the reader somewhat confused. It makes the story feel a bit disjointed.

Conclusion:

Slow Boat to Purgatory delivers a delightful tale of a man caught between the world of his book and the one he lives in. Purgatory itself is neat, but the boat there is slow. If you don’t mind the wait, and enjoy some intrigue mixed into your fantasy, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.OK)

Dead Roots by Brian Geoffrey Wood

There be demons in and out of mind…

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: R (Disturbing scenes, extreme course language, and sexual content)

What if demons didn’t lurk in the corners, filling our nightmares with images of terror, but instead walked among us. What if they walked in our skin? If you could see these demons for what they really are, the nightmares of your childhood becoming reality, what choice would you make? Fight, or flee? Thomas Bell chose the former.

Dead Roots is the story of a man haunted by dreams, images from his past bleeding into his present nightmares. Instead of running from his own demons, he faces the real ones on the supernatural plane, protecting society, covering up any trace of their presence. At least, that’s his job. To Thomas Bell, they are indeed real.

 

The Good:

Brian Geoffrey Wood drops the reader into the action right from the opening scene. The words turn to phrases, then to paragraphs, then to pages, and before the reader is aware they are sucked into the world of Dead Roots. Wood has a wonderful ability to weave culturally important elements into the action and dialogue, letting the reader grow in knowledge as the story he is telling flourishes. No passive voice or extensive amounts of dialogue are needed to “inform the reader” about how the world works. Wood has designed characters that talk to each other as regular people would, in a culture all of their own.

Thomas Bell hunts demons by day, while facing his own at night. Instead of being grazed over, his dreams come to life, popping with realism, his psychological turmoil growing into monstrous word-crafted demons in the reader’s head. His nightmares are filled with imagery, setting the scenes with an explosive flavour of delight, like biting into a juicy fruit (or perhaps a rotten fruit. His dream are nightmares, after all…).

Wood uses some quick point of view changes throughout, jumping around the action to keep things moving. Instead of leaving the reader in confusion, or slogging through over-description during intense action, this stylistic choice keeps the pacing up. It also adds suspense. There is nothing like having one character black-out after being punched, or loosing consciousness as they fall into a lake, to get the heart racing like a runaway train.

The Bad:

Some of the scenes end just to jump days later to a place and time unknown to the reader. This, in short, leaves the reader scratching their head, wondering how the story got from the last scene to the next, and questioning what happened in between. One particularly drastic jump in the middle makes the book seem like a new plot has been introduced – the old plot being left on the sidelines. The missing “connecting” scenes make it feel a bit disjointed.

There are small portions of over-description when dealing with the magic system. Instead of showing how it works, Wood opts for describing it. Mostly, this does not get in the way of the book’s feel as a whole, but takes away from some of the magic (no pun intended).

Conclusion:

Dead Roots is a decent book and is, for sure, worth your time. Despite a few pacing issues, Wood delivers a gloriously dark tale of horror from the mind of a psychologically tortured soul while he fights other truly tortured souls. If you do not have a stomach for gross images, or are put off by sexual content and lots of profanity, you should give this book a pass. However, if you like to read about the darkness that lives inside and outside of us all, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

New Covert art and Title?

Glanderxefront

For those of you that follow me in all the places that I tend to frequent, (no, not to the stalkers that eye me from the shadows at night. Just nice stalkers please.) you will be well aware that I am hard at work with book one of my epic fantasy tale, originally called “Glanderxe.” During the current re-write, I have been playing around with different ideas in my head. To give me a break between scenes, I have been doing other equally important things for further along in the process, like seeking out a cover artist, looking for a good editor, oh, and also finally settling on the actual title of the book I have been writing for far too long. I cannot say that I have arrived at all (or any) conclusions concerning such generalities, but I have been having fun. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.

Here are some quick reveals concerning those processes. The above image says it all. As a writer, I should, and probably can, write 1,000 words to equal the image (as they say images are worth), but I believe that art should speak for itself. It is a preliminary concept cover that I designed last night with my limited knowledge of photo manipulation. I think that the title of the book will be “Pawns of Time” using the working title “Glanderxe” as the series title. (Yes, it will not just be one book, but a series of epic fantasy goodness.) “Pawns of Time” is the first “moment” in the much greater amount of Time it will take to pen the series. So, tada! Name reveal.

I am thinking of taking this cover art I designed and throwing it at a professional artist to give them a a flavour of what I am looking for. For now, all of you lovely readers get the flavour. Consider this a taste of what is to come, an app before the entre. If it leaves you hungry for more, I think that is okay. I am hungry for more too. On that note… back to writing!

Used book Revolution

Books HD

Here is something interesting. Over the Christmas season, I had the opportunity to not be in the middle of nowhere, visiting family and such. Taking myself out of the Northern wilderness in which I usually live, and driving south has many pros and cons. Seeing family (pro), long car rides (con… unless a good audiobook is loaded up 😉 ), cheaper groceries and gas (pro), having no power because of ice-storms (con)… and the list could go on. The pro/con that I find taking a particular amount of my attention has to do with (you guess it) books.

Alas, the pros must eventually come to an end. They say that all good things come to those who wait. Perhaps wade is an equally applicable word… wading through the many books available for my purchasing pleasure (and there is a lot of wading to find those nuggets of joy hidden within the stacks). How, you ask, could such a place have any cons? That is like saying there is pain in Heaven, is it not? Perhaps, but beneath the deceitful facade of perfection there is indeed a problem. This is a problem that every one of us can fix. Yes, we have all been empowered! The problem is this. All of the books were traditionally published.

Used book stores are great. I mean, come on, just walking into a giant open space filled with shelves and shelves of books just puts a skip in my step and my heart wants to beat faster than is medically safe. What a sight! What a feeling! Past all the mushy stuff, there are books. An entire wall labelled “Fantasy/Sci-fi” and a whole selection of beautiful hardback possibilities. There is even more than one shelf of horror books, a pro not oft seen. Here, I could spend hours, and only crack the cover of a few books before deciding, “A 500+ page hardback for only $5! Done!”

Imagine this, a place where used paperbacks and gently loved hardbacks are available from indie authors! With the digital age exploding, much tree-killing is falling by the way side, but some people still love physical books. Even if you love ebooks, all must admit: an ebook lacks that glorious freshly-printed or used-book scent. Such things are indeed integral to the reading experience.

“I have a dream,” said many famous people. I say the same thing, though am not truly famous. My dream is used bookstores filled with just as many self-published books as traditionally published… or maybe even more! And back to that empowering thing: if we all buy indie paper/hardbacks they might someday end up as previously loved editions on some such stacks as these. Perhaps we should all pick our favourite indie authors, buy ten copies of their paperback, and donate them to the local used book stores, thrift stores, friends, family, leave them “accidentally” somewhere in the mall. Yes, this is the path to the future, and we all can help make the world a better place, one book at a time. Perhaps someday, when I walk into a used book store, I might see my own self-published works there. Time has yet to reveal such things to me. 😉

Illiom: Daughter of Prophecy by Claudio Silvano

A fantasy tale of hermits and prophecy.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG (Fantasy violence and coarse language)

Have you ever fantasised about living in the woods? In a world full of high-rises and busyness, it could seem pleasant to try and make a home for yourself in the wilderness, back to the roots of those caveman days. I don’t know if Claudio Silvano has thought about this or not, but he has created a character who went further than thinking about it. She lived it. Illiom, a self-made hermit, lives in the mountains with naught but her animals and own thoughts, until she is rudely disturbed by a prophecy and royal summons. The nerve!

The Good:

From the first pages, I was impressed by this book. It opens with a piece of lore that lets the reader know about some of the history and working of the world, adding magic one word at a time. Such “fragments of lore” are speckled pleasantly throughout the book, uncovering some of the mysteries of the spiritual nature of the world through subtle hints, making the culture come to life. It was intriguing to see the Biblical parallelism they had, while still being new creations in their own right.

After a clever and inviting piece of lore, the story kicks off with Illiom in the mountains. Right away, the writing style grabbed me. The prose are coloured with personification making scenes come to life, and further building upon the lore of the land. The scene setting is well done, making a simple thing like a journey from point A to B a pleasant romp through the scenery as words are crafted around the road ahead.

The third person narrative style that Claudio Silvano chose, allows for camera manipulation. The camera swings seamlessly from a close-up on the characters, re-telling word for word what they are saying, then pulls away to reveal the scene at a glance. I have seen this done poorly, and was glad to see it done well here. It allows for not every single word to be dictated, while still having pointed dialogue sections.

The Bad:

The book starts out great, but sadly does not keep up the momentum. I enjoyed some of slower sections at the beginning while the world was being developed, but the magic dies quickly. Purple prose make it drag in spots. What makes the prose well done during travel sequences is that it builds the scene and gives a sense of progression. The obsessive description of static locations, later on in the book, does little to set the scene, but instead paints in pain-staking detail, thus slowing down the progression to a stop, instead of informing the journey as it progresses.

There are long sections of dialogue that do little more than describe the ins and outs of certain cultural particulars. Such long-winded tell instead of show descriptions are dry and uninteresting, also not aiding some of the pacing issues already evident. Illiom is inexplicably clueless about the workings of the world in order to inform the reader of how things are. She asks a lot of questions to be answered in bland and uninteresting dialogue which does the job, but is less than appealing.

I have touched on it before, but that is because this is the biggest problem with Illiom; the pacing is way off. It starts off strong, and then the plot stops altogether as the characters (and reader) wait for something to happen. A lot of the book is spent with the characters “in conference” deciding what to do. These scenes lacked interest, contained lots of tell instead of show about the inner workings of the world, and at the end of the day, could mostly be skipped over to get the plot back on track quicker.

Sadly, the plot never does really pick up. The first 20% is great, and the last 10% is okay, but the rest of the book is just a bunch of characters sitting around, learning about a world they should already know about, and twiddling their thumbs. The whole time, I was waiting for the plot to get moving, and by the end it still hadn’t really moved. It feels like a giant set-up for book two.

Conclusion:

Unfortunately, great potential does not always equal a great book. Illiom offers a beautiful world with some artfully implemented prose, but this does not make up for most of the book being a stand-still. The pacing issues are immense, and, sadly, the potentially good writing is hindered by the plotting. If you are willing to stick it out, and see if something happens in book two, this book might be for you.

Where you can find it:
Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact by K.C. May

A science fiction medial thriller with a deadly virus and Frankensteins.

The Rating: 
Mature Content Rating: PG-13 (Mature themes and coarse language)

Have you ever read Frankenstein? If not, chances are you have heard of it. A scientist creates a being named Frankenstein. This scientist’s name might not have been Katie Marsh, and the creation’s name might not be Frankenstein, but Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact by K. C. May holds a similar premise. These new Frankensteins are created to hopefully save humanity from the deadly Molio virus that threatens to wipe everyone out.

Non-human beings, a dystopian virus, and science: what does that equal? Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact — A science fiction medial thriller, full of thrills, science, medicine… oh and there’s some fiction in there too. 😉

The Good:

The last medical mystery novel I read turned out to be surprisingly superb, and Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact is again no disappointment. The best way I can describe this book is as a roller coaster. It starts out as a slow climb, characters coming to life, the plot unfolding, the world filling out from written words. All you can see is blue sky, birds flitting in tunes of their own between God’s wispy breaths above. And then… the bottom falls out. Sky turns to ground. Air rushes by in a cacophonous torrent. Heart racing. Skin breaks out in a sweat. The thrill breaks from your lips in a scream: mixed terror and mirth. This is the plot of Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact. All the building blocks of plot, setting, and characters balance on each other until, before you know it, a house has been built.

I was following along the story, enjoying myself, until at about 75% through, the roller-coaster rocketed forward, leaving my heart racing and mind reeling to catch up. The pacing/plot flow nicely. Like a summer’s stream, the reader remains unaware of the waterfall up ahead. All of a sudden, the water gives out, and the thrill-ride beings. The plot thickens to the point of breaking, all while the reader is still trying to recover from the thrilling fall.

This book not only offers a great plot that is beautifully paced, but point of view changes throughout are wonderfully implemented for further character development. The POV switched between various  “good guys” and “bad guys” letting the reader see the plot from all different angles. This enhances the suspense immensely. Characters are so well developed by the time the bottom falls out of the river that the reader truly cares what will happen to them. The build up is just as important for the plot as it is for the characters.

Character interactions between Ryder and Katie are pleasantly humorous at times and cute at others. I like how the fact that they grew up as childhood friends is mentioned and then expanded upon throughout to develop their characters. I really felt like these two were childhood friends, watching how they interacted. Important past events and dealt with in flashbacks instead of gratuitous tell vs. show, or being skimmed over. These aid immensely in character development, not only for Katie and Ryder, but the other characters involved in this world.

The Bad:

One of the characters is plagued by nightmares that feed off of his internal turmoil. A lot of this turmoil is brushed over, and mentioned in an off-hand kind of way, making it lack substance. His nightmares are told in a this-is-what-happened-point-form style instead of allowing the reader to re-living the horrors in all their realism.

The prose were not very full or flavourful. I love scene crafting, and this book missed the opportunities that the plot and characters opened for it. More investment in world description could have potentially enhanced the emotional impact of the scenes.

The ending comes a little fast. I like the drop that leaves the reader breathless, but once the bottom of that hill is reached, the bottom out is short, followed by screeching brakes. The pacing is good up until the final couple chapters, where I felt not enough justice was given to one of the major plot points in order to wrap it up well.

Conclusion:

Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact is an enjoyable romp through a near-future, potentially dystopian world. The character interaction are wonderful, and the plot flows like a river followed by a waterfall (in a good way). The thrills are heart-pounding, and the character are pleasant to travel with through the words, phrases, pages, and chapters. If you enjoy getting to know the characters of a story, all while the world and plot form around you, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

O.B.U. by Martin Chushui

One night can change the world, and one man can save it.

The Rating: 

Mature-Content Rating: A-14 (Lots of sexual content and some coarse language).

What would you do if one night changed your life? What if 15 years changed your world? What if one man could change it back? O.B.U. is a story about one man who has one horrible night, and wakes up 15 years later. The world is not what it once was, and no one is who they seem to be. What has happened to the world is yet to be discovered, and what will happen is soon to be revealed. Unlock the mystery and wonder behind the world that Martin Chushui has created.

The Review:

Normally, when I review a book, I like to point out what I liked and what I didn’t like. This book proved challenging for me in this respect. There are probably some things that were done well in O.B.U, but there were so many glaring obstacles to my enjoyment of the book, that it is difficult for me to identify the good.

It would be difficult to identify the number one big issue with this book, but the biggest problem that I noticed within the first couple pages is that O.B.U. needs a lot of editing. It surprised me to reach the end and see the author thanking his editor in the acknowledgements. If I had not read that, I would have thought that a spell-checker was the only editor consulted. There are missing words, incorrect verb conjugation, tense mix-ups, and everything else you can think of that a spell-checker wouldn’t catch. Though I found no misspelt words, the glaring editorial errors are so prevalent (almost every page) that it was hard to even read the book.

The next biggest problem I encountered was a classic case of tell vs. show. There is a lot of tech in this book, and it can potentially be confusing to wrap your head around. In order to battle this, it is explained in such painstaking detail that you will have no doubt how everything works. At the outset, our protagonist knows nothing about this world in which he has awakened, which is a great set-up for him to learn it slowly, allowing the reader to follow along as he journeys through the world. Instead of this, extended dry dialogue sections are thrown at him (and the reader) so that he understands how things work. It is so bad that a number of times throughout the book a character might say something like, “I agree, these talks are getting a bit boring.” If even the characters know that tell vs. show is boring, perhaps this glaring issue needs some attention.

The dialogue is choppy and unflavourful. It sounds like poor RPG scripting, except instead of your choice of uninteresting dialogue option, the protagonist chooses for you.

Note: Not a true representation of the dialogue, but a made up interaction to show how it flows.
“What is this place?”
“It is the place where we train with guns.”
“Tell me more about guns.”
“Guns are those things that shoot the enemy. You will need to learn how to use them in order to not die.”
“Tell me more about this enemy.”

There is no prose in this book at all. Certain scenes are introduced with a few sentences of description, and then we are thrown right into the dialogue. Some scenery is even described through dialogue, but not because the narrator is a character. There isn’t really a narrator, save for the odd “he said” and “she questioned” following dialogue. This is action and dialogue on a blank slate.

I won’t say that there is no character development, but it was hard to identify because I really didn’t care what was happening. I could not empathize with any of the characters because they hardly seemed to care about themselves. All development is based on a single scene near the beginning that is mostly brushed over. The idea is to keep the mystery of why our protagonist was suddenly transported 15 years into the future. Because the characters hardly seemed to care about this jump in time, it was hard for me, as a reader, to care. Without internal monologue, prose, or description of any kind, it proves difficult to discern what the characters care about and what they don’t.

One of the primary moral issues in this book is sexism. The world has changed for the better, and now people can experience freedom sexually. It seems like the author is trying to speak out against sexism, and in fact the main characters says that he hates sexism, but is in fact, himself, sexist (not the author. The character). On the one hand he says that he hates when women are mistreated, and then he says things like, “why can’t women just remain in the kitchen.” Then he switches back to telling about how his dad brought him up right, teaching him to treat women well, yet at the same time being offended when women don’t act the way he wants. This glaring character discrepancy is repeated throughout the book, and even the way some of the women characters talk about themselves almost made me feel like they were being sexist toward themselves.

Sometimes when a book is written poorly, I have given it 2 stars because it had great potential, intriguing concepts, or a fresh plot. O.B.U. sadly has none of this. The plot is a classic case of “this is the prophesied one who will save the world.” If you have seen The Matrix, you know the plot of this book. It follows the main plot points of that movie so closely that instead of seeing the scenes written about while I read (the lack of prose may be a contributor), my mind was replaying the parallel scenes from the Matrix. I saw Neo falling from the battery-soup when our protagonist gets introduced to O.B.U. I saw him sitting in the chair learning how to fight, fly, etc. when our protagonist did 7 years of training in one night. I saw Neo dodging bullets on a rooftop when the odds are working against him and there were too many enemies for him to face alone. (I will not spoil what the main character in O.B.U. actually does instead of dodging bullets, as it would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, it was similar). I kept waiting for the scene where he was going to stop bullets in mid-air. Though the final encounter isn’t exactly that, it is basically the same. Change some minor points, mix in some mask wearing from Mission Impossible and you have O.B.U.

Conclusion:

I wanted this book to get better as I kept reading, and read it to the very end. Sadly, it is a carbon copy of The Matrix without all the special effects. Its only redeeming quality is that there were not too many POV changing issues, and if it weren’t for the poor editing, I could almost know what was going on. If you enjoy putting your palm to forehead a lot, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords

Diving in Forever

It always starts with a dive. A foot dipped in, a harmless splash, like foreplay to the plunge. There is no harm in a little fun, no commitment, no care for the future. That paradise sitting beyond the plunge is waiting, ready. I want to arrive, but fear the decent, fear the plunge, the dive.

My fingers glide along the surface of the pool, those ever-broadening ripples inviting. I feel the warmth climb up my arm, the promise of pleasant temperatures beneath. Like a lover, it beckons me. The wet toys with my heart, down on one knee – a ring: willing me to take the plunge, caressing my hand as I reach down to clasp the diamond sparkling on its surface.

The promise of a better life spills from my lover’s lips. The beach behind me stretches wide, as I stand on my rock, this diving board of choice. Paradise is a vision on the face of my lover, a mirage turned real on the water’s glassy surface. I touch the pool again, the waves disturbing that image, that place, that promise beneath. I can reach for it, but cannot touch, see it as from afar. My hand is drawn back, wet, the scene beneath me unchanged, untouched, unaware.

The sky reaches toward me, my arms twirling in the air with a final wave. Left arm, right arm — they work together now — stretching toward that place beneath the waves, the promise of my lover’s gift. I take the plunge. It always starts with a dive.

The paradise image shatters, my hands breaking it in two, in three, in thousands of tiny shards: the broken dust of a diamond speckling the surface. The image is a mirage, my lover imaginary. I reach for the ring, seek to press it onto my waiting finger. The golden circlet of promise is wrenched from my hands and thrown far into the deep. I watch it sink, watch it bubble, the plunk of ring touching water inaudible beneath the pool’s surface.

A brief flash of light, a twinkle in my lover’s eye, speaks to me from the distance. From clear to murky the water changes, my limbs working to push me forward. The soft glint of that ring, that promise, speaks to me again, and I focus my efforts toward that goal. Looking up, there is no more sky. Nothing but solid rock. The ocean narrows. The ceiling lowers. The tunnel sucks me in. My ring continues to sink, pulled into the surrounding drink, falling down the drain. I reach with my arms, kick with my feet. The ring is closer now. The rock is closer now.

I follow that lonely light into the deep, press toward my lover’s promise. It starts with a dive, starts off blue, then murky, then black. The darkness crawls ever closer, clawing at my limbs, shivering up my spine. It passes over my arms like a cloud of ink, and I lose them for a moment — them and the ring: a brief instant, like a blink. It is enough to spur me on, fill me with the dread of losing that thing, that ring, which I seek. My finger brushes the edge of that golden band.

Blink.

My fingers fade into the black, granting me nothing, no purchase. One flash. Two blinks. Three. That lover’s promise is fading, fighting to hang on. It screams for release, blinking in and out like a dying light, a dying promise, a dying love. Those hands of the deep drag it beyond my reach.

Blink. The light goes out.

I reach into the darkness, spin in the depths of that dying water. My hand touches the wet stone beneath me, the wet stone above me, around me. My fingers climb up the tunnel’s wall, fingering at nothing, drifting through the darkness, reaching for the light. My lungs burn. Skin is cold and clammy. I flick the switch.

Blink.

I wake up on the floor. Wake up shaking. Wake up cold, wet with terror’s sweat. The darkness of that stone tunnel is pierced through by that globe on the ceiling, that switch in my hand, that switch on the wall. A drowned tunnel in the deep shows its face in my mind. The scratchy carpet beneath me scrapes my skin as I shake: shake with fear, shake away the dream.

I find my pillow wrapped between the sheets, clutched between my disfigured legs — those distorted limbs kicking at the water, kicking at the nightmare, kicking it away. That bunch of feathers stuffed in a sack are meant to give my head comfort, a forgotten commodity between my nightmares. I squeeze the pillow, tuck my legs in, searching for that comfort it is supposed to offer me: comfort my head, comfort my mind.

I lay there for a time, shaking the wet from my skin, shaking the water from my limbs, shaking the dream away. Shaking the fear away. Finally, I roll onto my back: tired, defeated. My chest rises and then falls in quick succession, the light above me burning those slits in my face, slits meant for seeing. I grab the wall, not covered with stone, but simple paint. It supports me in my trek, supports my tired limbs, my own weight taking some shivers away. I flick lights on as I go, burning the inky black from my mind and surroundings.

Dry mouth. Parched lips. A glass. Water. It shoots from those nozzles in the wall as I punch the desired button. A cool stream fills my glass, one reminder of the dream at a time. One drop, one trickle, one cold blast as the chilled liquid reaches me through the thin glass. A tremor runs through my body, water sloshing about, spilling on the floor, spraying from the wall, waves cascading from my hands. The glass drops.

A shatter. A pop. A flash. The light-bulb bursts. Darkness. I slip on the wet beneath my feet, lose footing with my shivering. My hand comes off that water dispenser, feet come off the floor, half-naked form lying on the cold, stone tiles. The wet, the stone, the darkness, they are too familiar. I want to curse at the stupid bulb on the ceiling, damn the water, the fallen glass, but am too afraid. Another shiver walks through me, and I cry as a piece of glass cuts my quivering legs.

It always starts will a dive. A dive under the covers. A dive from bed to floor where I found my waking, shaking form. A dive onto the kitchen floor. All these clumsy plunges worked of their own accord, taunting me. They taunted the crack in my skull, taunted my broken-half-mended fingers, taunted that first dive I took long ago. The water was too shallow, the stone bottom too close, my head too damaged, the blackness too dense. Unconsciousness found me swallowed by the deep, swallowed by the darkness. Now, the darkness swallows my dreams, the water ever-present, the fear ever-real. Now, the darkness swallows my kitchen, spitting out bits of tired glass from above. One flash, then darkness.

Blink.

I wait for my eyes to adjust some, or at least that’s what I tell myself. My nerves need more adjusting, more time, than my eyes. Finally, the shaking calms, the darkness barely traversable. The bathroom light shows that mess on the kitchen floor for what it is. I look back from the room, the switch, the light I just flicked on. Now I curse, though it’s more to hide the fear still haunting beneath my skin, hiding in that pool on the floor, than a damnation. If only I could curse my fear, damn that monster of my past, of my mind, of every drop and trickle, back to the hell from which it came: the hell where it belongs.

A broom, a rag, a mop, the mess is clean, but that shattered diamond from a ring, shattered glass on the floor, still tortures my mind. I know that sleep will not come again, and no longer want that drink of water. I choke down a mouth full of saliva, saliva mixed with tears. It tastes vile, doesn’t quench my thirst, only aggravates the chap of my lips, but I care not to try the nozzle again, care not to watch the terrifying liquid spill from that wall.

What to do with the night? How to shake my fright? Some find peace in baths with bubbles. I find nothing but water. Some walk off their fears, walk off their stress, crush anxieties beneath their feet. The blackened sky outside my window, out my door, down the street — darkness — not a friend to the frightened. There is darkness and water in my dreams, darkness and water in my kitchen, outside… just darkness.

I take the dive, take the plunge, wrap my form in a coat to cover the shaking half-naked child beneath. My door creeks its goodbye. A lock is clicked in place. I flick the switch. A flash. That light inside my house dies, this time of my own accord.

The streets are calm, streets are crisp. I focus on the feet beneath me, plodding a course of their own. Left, right, left, right, they carry me into the night, into the darkness, away from that place of fears, that place of fright. My trek settles into a rhythm; my heart settles, mind does not. It is not my intent, my fear, that carries me, but those shoes alone. Shoes are meant for walking. Nights are meant for sleeping. Water is meant for drinking, swimming, drowning, trapped, dying. It started with a dive those years ago, and replays in my mind every night, replays in every drop.

A flash.

The sky breaks open, cracks a wicked grin, then it starts to tremble, shake, shiver. I know the feeling well: the flash, the shivering… the water. Outside there is darkness… and water. I try to turn, try to run, but my will is not what carries me. Those feet plod on, picking up speed, running now. I can run from my dreams, run from my past, run from the puddle on my floor, run from the water, but not the sky.

A flash.

It sneers at me again, the thunderous laughter surrounding, shaking me. I shiver. A drop. I touches my nose, runs down to the tip, is sucked back into my waiting nostrils. The water falls again, one drop at a time, one fear at a time. One flash, one crash, one shudder at a time. One shiver. My eyes sting with the wet, sting with my tears, sting with the rain. The two forces work as one, blurring my eyes, but I cannot stop. I must run. I must fight. I left my house. I took the dive. There is no turning back.

That monster of the skies is chasing me, nipping at my heels from puddles, splashes from behind. I can see nothing but water. It laps into my mouth… one drop at a time… trickles into my ears… one drop at a time… sucked into my nostril… one drop at a time. A flash. A drop. A shiver. I stop.

A rock stretches beneath my feet, my diving board of choice. I look back and see the water rushing toward me. It crashed through the streets, topples tired buildings, breaks glass. Streetlights burst on contact, one flash at a time. Memory, imagination, reality, dream, how can I tell the difference? Awake, asleep, dead, alive, what is the difference? All is filled with darkness and with water, no escape after the plunge.

My hands reach to the sky, rain bleeding down my arms. What choice do I have left? Left arm, right arm — they work together now — stretching toward that place beneath the waves. I take the plunge. It always starts with a dive.

The world is silent beneath the water. A still calm overtakes me as I give in to the ghost.
It fills my nostrils, twists through my open ears, spills out my cracked and bleeding lips. The water works as it’s meant to: meant for drinking, swimming, drowning, trapped, dying. Darkness closes around me, that stone tunnel of my dreams. I see the diamond in the distance, that light dying beneath the waves, promise of a future, a destiny, someone to keep me safe. Fear cannot take me when in the arms of my lover. It cannot steal me from his grasp. With my final breath, final kick, I dive toward the ring. It spins about, playing in the drink, twirling in the circling drain of this sink.

A flash.

I blink, reaching out for that dying light, knowing it is my only hope. Darkness crowds me all around, inky fingers clutching my arms… the arms grabbing that ring. Warmth emanates from that piece, that promise, the lover in my hand, on my finger. I shiver with the excitement as darkness overtakes me, overtakes us both. Water takes over where air is meant to be, bubbles releasing their hold on me. My body floats on the surface of the pool, water tearing off those clothes, bleeding down my naked skin, filling it with fear.

I cannot leave the deep, cannot run from my destiny. This i my new home: my paradise. I watch that useless body floating above me, the body of a woman filled with terror, filled with fear, tortured by every drop. My face is wet with tears for her, but I am not afraid like she. I swim in the deep, laugh with glee, safe in my lover’s arms. There is no escaping him. No going back to those streets, that house, that kitchen, that bed, those dreams, that life… but why would I want to? I took the plunge, took the dive, and there is no turning back.

Get on Board Little Children by Victoria Randall

What if you needed a license to have children?

The Rating: 
Mature-Content Rating: PG (Mature themes and sexual content)

Unwanted children run rampant in the streets. Kids are abused at home. One step at a time – one kid at a time – the world slowly progresses into chaos. This is the state of things in the near past of Get on Board Little Children. The near past that is out present day. Child Protective Services swoop in, hiding behind masks, saying they want to help – to make the world a better place – but broken families are left in their wake. Kids are ripped from the grasp of their parents because the home appears to be a “high risk.” Scold your child in public, take them out with too many holes in their clothes, face unwashed, and watch out! Your lack of money, or perception there of, might leave your home in disarray, and children taken away. This is the near past. What is the next political step? The next “fix” to challenge culturally “unfit” parents? Don’t let them have kids at all.

The Good:

Victoria Randall has been able to take this politically and culturally relevant scenario to the next level. Get on Board Little Children is set in the near future of our current world, a world where we work toward cultural peace (which really means that everyone has to be the same. The rich and stable rule the world, right?) It is not your standard Science Fiction read, but tackles culturally relevant issues in much the same way. What made me enjoy this book the most was not the writing style, the story, or any of those standard things, but in fact it was this cultural issue that resonated with my heart. It is the story of a woman who is on the run from the government because she doesn’t have enough money for the “I’m-allowed-to-have-a-baby” license, and will not go through with the mandated abortion.

I could write an entire review on the cultural relevance of this particular book, analysing the details to the point where it would make you cry, but alas, that would not be a book review, instead being a political statement. Suffice it to say, the moral issues this book deals with are the selling feature. However, there are other things that I liked about this book. (“Thank goodness! Get off your soap-box already!” “Okay, but only because you asked nicely.”)

The scenery that Randall has penned could be best described as word dressing. This near-future dystopian world lays before you. The plot is in place. The characters are there. But everything is naked like a blank page… until words come to dress this story, one piece of clothing at a time, making this culturally relevant story more culturally appropriate. The reader no longer has to look at a naked story, but is now delightfully informed of the little details that make a scene come alive, while still allowing the story to progress. Everyone can move forward and put clothes on at the same time… right?

The story follows our protagonist, for the most part, keeping things on track and succinct, but there are brief point-of-view switches to the “bad guys” which aid in fleshing out the thrill of the ride. The mostly single POV works well, as it is easy for the reader to follow along. The POV switches to the antagonist(s) are brief and punctuated, increasing the suspense level when things slow down for our protagonist(s). This use of POV changes not only kept the suspense level up, but aided immensely with pacing. The book is primarily fast-paced, but not because it is let’s-run-away-from-big-government-men-with-shotguns all the time. Yes, there are trials. There are struggles, but the thrill stays up because of the dire straits that our run-aways are in. The fast-paced scenes are well integrated and interspersed with slower scenes to allow our characters (and the reader) to re-cooperate.

The book ends on a satisfying note, wrapping up the plot nicely, as well as touching on some of the side character’s stories, giving them enough spot-light to feel closure. The plot is not very complex, but the lack of complexity allows for a quick and satisfying conclusion.

The Bad:

Though I enjoyed what word dressing there was, sometimes scenes were wearing nothing more than underclothing. This, perhaps, gives enough flavour to tell that it’s a person (or a scene… this metaphor has stopped working a long time ago) but not enough to accent their features. I didn’t feel emotionally engaged with the characters, even though they were dealing with some tough issues. This is not simply dialogue slapped on a blank canvas, but it is far from exemplary word/scene crafting.

Some of the side characters had intriguing stories to tell, but were not given enough of a spot-light to be worthwhile. Many of the characters lacked any real development, instead serving a single purpose and remaining the same from beginning to end. Even the main characters who got the most focus throughout were, for the most part, cardboard cut-outs. A few scenes act as shadows of development, but not enough to have any serious impact. This makes it difficult for the reader to relate emotionally with the characters.

More setting would have been nice. Right from the first sentence, the crisis has begun. There was enough world-building throughout to make the crisis believable and set it up, but not enough pre-emptive development to draw the reader in. Through the story, there is a little bit of development, but more before the plot picks up would have enhanced the emotional attachment between reader and characters.

Randall deals with some heavy issues, but because of the fast pacing, it almost makes the ethical questions dealt with feel forced, lacking the beauty of internal turmoil. The “on the run from the law” theme should set the characters, and thus reader, on edge and anxious, but the emotional impact of their situation is mostly missed.

Conclusion:

Get on Board Little Children is a thrill ride through a near-future world. It deals with all sorts of ethical questions concerning children in a realistic and believable way. The plot will draw you right in, and keep you entertained, but sadly, the lack of character and scene development leaves the book a little lacking. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read that will keep you entertained until the last page.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Barnes & Noble