Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thumbs Firmly Jammed in the Meh Position

For the first time in quite a while, I've finished a book that I can't honestly decide whether I like or not. The book itself (Blue Lab, by J.A. Jones) reads somewhat like a second-round novel draft you should have brought to your writer's group earlier. The voice is there, the pacing is almost there, and the logic is...well...interesting.

I picked this up because I'm working on a similar mix of tech & fantasy in one of my drafts and I was curious about how the author had handled it in this instance. The main POV character was a child born a few generations after the (factual, in this case) King Arthur, living in a small village and trying to survive the open secret that he is the bastard grandson of the monarch who has fallen from vying with the High King to the bandit lord of this village. Myths in this story are covers for alien visitation, words are alien because aliens apparent prefer 'gre'at n'umb'ers o'f a'postro'phes. Evolution, thy deity is Extra Keystroke. Aliens who have artifically long lives apparently aren't able to reason their way to the potential downside of their decision (although apparently their biological systems can), but super-powered mutant children can help with this. Earth was once a vacation spot and is now a laboratory--this was one of my favorite conceits.

By the end I was hooked and firmly on the side of the good characters, but this was mostly because I was reading around the alien parts of the story (excising the mechanical parts from the cyborg genre?) and focusing on the fantastic. It was fascinating to find areas where the author had left in artifacts of previous edit rounds (creatures referred to that had never been mentioned, references to scenes that weren't in the book), but these weren't frequent enough to interfere with the story. My first urge is toward sarcasm...but there are emotional hooks that catch at you as you're hurtling past. It wasn't a bad book. It was a sad book--an unfinished tale.

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