A DRM-free dark fantasy/horror diary… I mean book… I mean omnibus.
Did you ever keep a diary as a kid (or maybe still do as an adult)? When keeping a diary, what are most afraid of? That someone will find it, right? Not only will someone know all of your deepest and darkest or secrets, but in today’s society they may also post it on the Internet in the form of an ebook for anyone to read. At least that’s what Glynn James would do… (you sneaky bastard, you). The question then becomes, however, is your diary worth reading? What’s going on in that head of yours? Do you just have a boring old life where all you talk about is what you ate fore breakfast (like too many Facebook updates and tweets out there), or do you like in a strange world where light and food are the two most precious commodities. (Okay, so maybe that part isn’t too strange. I think that light and food are important, no matter what world you come from/live in.
Diary of the Displaced – Omnibus is a collection of the first three books in the DoD series, and it seems like Glynn James is off to a great start. The book opens with a guy who is lost in a dark world and must find a way to survive, battling starvation and the strange creatures of this land he finds himself in. The first half of The Journey of James Halldon (book one of the omnibus) does a great job at describing this struggle through the journal entry style. When reading it truly feels like I am James Halldon, recounting the events of the previous day as I write my journal entry. Often times the reader is brought out of the action as James says things like “and how I found time to write this journal entry, I’ll never know” or “and now I sit to write this journal entry.” This narrative style, though it seemingly breaks up the action, puts a fresh twist on the POV that maybe James feel like a real character who is actually writing about his experiences.
A big question I had by only a few “days” into the book was, “I wonder how Glynn James will tackle dialogue in this narrative style?” I couldn’t conceivable see a way to maintain the out-of-body-diary-writing format while dealing with dialogue. By about half way through The Journey of James Halldon, the reader is introduced to another character, thus dialogue ensues. Unfortunately, Glynn James dealt with the dialogue in the regular “put in in quotes” fashion, thus taking away from the diary narrative style a bit. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and does not take away from the book in any way, but I, personally, was hoping to see some innovation when it comes to dealing with dialogue and heavy action scenes to make the whole book carry on the definitive and distinct narrative style that the tale starts out in. One thing that I loved concerning this was when a character had to tell a story. Instead of the story being a series of paragraphs in dry dialogue, Glynn James starts a new chapter entiteled “Adler’s Tale” or something of the like. The POV then changes to the “diary” of this other character, and they retell their tale. This kept with the “diary” style nicely, and I applaud the author for this unique and intriguing narrative mechanic.
I found that Glynn James not only had a good handle on how to keep the action moving, but he did an excellent job at keeping the dialogue fresh and exciting. I enjoyed some of the subtle humour that was employed, and found James Halldon’s internal monologue about the scene added nicely to this. Such monologue also allowed for great character development of Halldon, who is telling a story of self-discovery (having lost his memory and all) just as much as survival.
I was a little concerned when reading the Omnibus that it would simply be a case of “this should just have been one book,” especially when I was almost half way through the Omnibus and hadn’t finished the first book, seeing no conceivable conclusion in the near future. I was, however, pleasantly rewarded with a definite ending to the first book leaving room for more questions to be answered as the series continued, but also giving be a sense of completion plot-wise. The style of the storytelling and even genre of the book changes a lot as the Omnibus progresses into the second and third books of the series. The first book (especially the first half) tells a nice survival/horror tale (if horror can be “nice”) with elements of fantasy thrown in. The second and third books hold to a more standard third person narrative style and move away from survival into a dark fantasy/sci-fi genre.
First things first. Why are there three books? The Broken Lands and The Ways should really have been one book. Though the first book has a nice conclusion, the second does not. Also, the first book is as long as the second and third put together. The Broken Lands ends on a cliff hanger, which isn’t bad in itself, but a cliff hanger is not synonymous with, “I didn’t conclude the plot at all guys! Stay tuned!” From hence forth I will consider The Broken Lands and The Way to be one entity, because they just make more sense that way.
Book 2-3 moves much quicker than book one, which is not bad in and of itself. It fits well with the narrative style and genre shifts, but it is implemented in a way that make the story feel rushed. Book one introduced concepts/people/places in a well paced manner, but book 2-3 does not. Everything moves so fast and new concepts/places/people are introduce so quickly that it can be difficult to keep track of everything at times. I say “at times” because it does not detract from the book a whole lot and I only felt that as a whole the pacing seemed a bit off, though nothing specific stood out while I was reading it. If Glynn James spent more time explaining or using these new concepts that were introduced, I feel like it would have flowed better (and added more words to read, which is never a bad thing… well, I shouldn’t say never. Words just for the sake of words is a bad thing). Even in the final chapters (days) of the book there were concepts set up/explained that felt rather shoved in just to tie up loose ends or aid the plot and/or questions the reader might still have.
One minor gripe I have is that there are two “ghost” characters that to me felt like the same “person.” When one or the other were talking/doing things (omitting their separate introductions) there was no reason to make any distinction. Glynn James could have said “one of the ghosts” and been set. In fact, once both characters are in the story, they mostly remain together leaving absolutely no reason to differentiate them.
However, this minor gripe leads into a bigger issue. Though the character of James Halldon was well done… no one else’s was. Every other character felt distinctly like a “side character” so much so that I had no reason to distinguish one from another or care about them, their story, or motivations individually. Basically James Halldon has a mission and the story revolves around that so exclusively that nothing else is really important. The exception to this is James family who the reader is only interested in because they have a connection to Halldon.
A few spelling/grammar errors take the polished feel away from this work, but nothing too major stands in the way of the reader, and the errors are few and far between. An interesting stylized “error” is dropping the person pronoun I/me from the beginning of sentences. At the beginning I thought this to be strange, resulting in many fragments, but as the story progressed I found out that this is Glynn James writing style, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is seeming on purpose and works well mostly, only rarely making paragraphs feel disjointed.
Glynn James paints a beautiful dark fantasy world that any horror or fantasy fan will feel right at home in. There are still enough questions unanswered at the end leaving room for side books / sequels, but the story does have a definite and satisfying conclusion. I do feel that these books should be read together as an Omnibus and not individually as they play off of each other in a brilliant way that I feel would be lost if read on their own. The first book can easily be read as a separate entity, but book 2-3 demands that you read the first and does not work on its on. Overall a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed. As a side note, not only are all works of Glynn James DRM-free, but I have heard from him personally that he considers himself a “DRM hater.” Amen to that.
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