Purgatory: it’s only one slow boat away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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