What I gleaned about the story: Someone found a book, learned too much, and is being executed for his contradictory opinions.
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Analysis: Unique and engaging concept, skillfully rendered.
[Note from Jeff:] Agreed. I also like that it clearly declares, “Literary SF inside. Laser-blaster fan-boys proceed no further.” Most indie covers don’t even try to set proper expectations.
Analysis: The prologue opens with: The fear that strangles my heart is the only natural thing in this world.
Admittedly, the line demands attention, and is chilling in the right light. It resonates on a gut level. But my higher cognitators are jamming up at the philosophical overreach. I mean, it can’t really be the only natural thing. Does the narrator have to be ‘natural’ to have natural feelings? Maybe there are other people around who have natural feelings. Has anyone asked them? Is the narrator just trying to describe how overwhelming the feeling is, but chose the wrong word?
I’m not trying to mock this line. I really am struggling with what’s been presented here, trying to figure out what definition of ‘natural’ is in play here.
This opening kind of foreshadows my brief fling with this book: even the things that knock me out of the story kind of draw me in at the same time. I’m engaged, yet frustrated, because I want to make sure I’ve understood what’s just been said before I move on.
We quickly learn that yes, he means that there’s something deeply wrong and unnatural about the world, something he saw in a book. But it was long ago, and his society thinks he’s crazy and heretical. He no longer trusts his own memory.
That’s powerful, engaging stuff. But I have to count the opening stumble.
Analysis: The narrator is starting to unpack the story of “the book,” the Matrix-y red pill that showed him that his world is a lie. In the midst of this, we get:
I was not supposed to have discovered the book. It was not supposed to exist. Yet within its belly I had first seen real things…
Something about “belly of the book” came across as a metaphor too far. I balked. In a way, WTF #2 bears some resemblance to its predecessor. The prose is trying to be poetic, and it doesn’t quite work for me.
George Orwell (is said to have) said, “Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.” I’ve got conflicted feelings about this advice. Yes, it would save us from an awful lot of overwrought purple prose. But it might also have saved us from, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.”
Even a few paragraphs into Resistance, I’m faced with this conflict. Orwell’s right, we can’t all be Nabokov, and authors frequently fall flat on their face when they try. The WTFs thus far would have been prevented by heeding Orwell’s advice. But I can’t bring myself to give it. The prose draws attention to itself, but often in a good way.
[Note from Jeff:] I often say that reading a book with frequent editorial gaffes is like trying to watch a movie through a cracked TV screen. You’re supposed to be engrossed in the world of the story, not distracted by flaws in the delivery system. But it would be wrong to suggest that all TV screens should always be clean and whole. For example, wouldn’t it be awesome if your TV actually cracked during a particularly brutal fight scene? I think a better way to characterize the goal is that readers should never be accidentally drawn to the prose. Usually, we want those clean, clear Orwellian window panes of text, but if the writer wants to fire up his poetic loins and drag our attention to the tip of his language tongue, that’s an entirely different undertaking.
My fingers twitch at my side, remembering the texture of the fragile pages beneath them.[…]
“Read its truth laid bare for an unprepared soul.”
The prose in Resistance doesn’t use Orwell-approved transparent window panes. It often draws attention to itself, and when it does I frequently find myself appreciating the way it uses language. But it also fails at times, hitting the occasional discordant note in the middle of the symphony.
In doing so, it’s racking up the WTFs, but also the kudos.
Analysis: Recently, another IOD candidate book accidentally got double-reviewed. Jefferson Smith tapped out of Threat of Shadows at the thirteen-minute mark, while I declared it a survivor. Two of Jeff’s demerits had their roots in Fantasy Capitalization Syndrome, the common epic fantasy phenomenon where Certain Things get capitalized to show they’re Special and Important.
It’s not that I was completely blind to the FCS in the other book, but it never really broke the surface for me. The caps weren’t all that dense, while the overall narrative voice was a little more down-to-earth, transparent.
With Resistance, the book was already dancing along the line that separates well-wrought from overwrought prose, so a steady stream of Special Capitals was enough to nudge it over the line. In a relatively brief span, “Execution Pillar,” “Elementals,” “Heterodox,” “Announcer,” and “Execution” all hopped on the FCS bandwagon, so I regretfully turned on my siren and pulled the bandwagon to the side of the road.
I do mean regretfully. There are three X’s up on the Big Board and a stopped clock that reads ‘7:39’ in red, light-up numbers. But the book’s distinct narrative voice mostly works for me, and despite the smack I’ve talked about prologues in the past, this prologue struck a lot of good emotional notes.
If it struck out, well, it was swinging for the fences. This author’s got real talent, and I look forward to seeing her step up to the plate again. And readers might want to give Resistance a chance to engage them.
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