Book Reviews 2 - August
After Earth: The official novel
Book review by Michael Bradley
The novelization of the movie, After Earth, is adapted by Peter David, based on the screenplay by Garry Whitta and M. Night Shyamalan. Will Smith, who stars in the movie version with his real life son Jayden, is credited with the original story. The novel version appears in mass market paperback format and is available at most book stores and other outlets. Unfortunately, despite the stellar list of names working on this project, it does not translate into a good story, even though it is well written.
The premise is a classic trope of the strict military father over-committed to his work and distant from his family. His oldest child, a daughter, is his favorite and she is killed defending her younger brother. The father, General Cypher Raige is the "OG" or "original ghost." There are creatures that are dropped on their planet by an enemy race that can track fear. Cypher is the first of eight to be able to conquer his fear and become a "ghost" or invisible to these predators. Kitai tries to become a super cadet to prove himself and replace his sister, but fails by trying too hard.
In an attempt to restore his marriage and get to know his son, Cypher takes his son Kitai with him on a business trip which goes terrible, leaving them stranded on Earth. Earth was abandoned by humans 1,000 years ago and everything has developed to kill humans. Here is where it starts to fail. Why was Earth abandoned if it is in great condition now? Why did life evolve to kill humans when humans left millennia ago? Why are only Cypher and Kitai alive in the crash? Why are the predators sent to kill human, the Ursa, changing over time? Why do their enemies want them dead?
None of those questions are ever answered. Neither is how humans with faster-than-light technology still use hand held batons with blades that pop out. There are no twists at all in this book and no character arc. Kitai basically proves himself a worthy soldier and then his father is proud. It is as if the children of The Great Santini just obeyed their father and everyone was happy. The story is obviously a metaphor for Will Smith and his son, the famous father with the young son trying to prove himself. The flaw is that there are no surprises; it is simply action and conclusion.
In good science fiction, especially something that occurs 1,000 years after leaving Earth, we would expect some interesting twists. I kept expecting the Ursa to have some secret meaning, but they don't. The distant, strict, un-approachable father is not wrong and needs to reach out. The boy just has to keep proving himself. Really?
The story is so light on content that even in small paperback it could only fill 265 pages, and that includes half of it in flash backs. The movie story could probably be told in eighty.
The upside is that due to its short length, the publishers added three more short stories based on the overall story line. These short stories are masterful and present a reader what they are expecting - a story, a character arc, and a twist before the ending. If you are interested in seeing After Earth, the movie, wait for video. I would recommend skipping the book.
Blood Groove (2009)
by Alex Bledsoe
Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski, a vampire, wakes up after 60 years stuck in a box and tries to make sense of the 1970's, but after his initial frenzy of vampire-creating, he discovers there is a new drug that is killing vampires. He has to decide how he fixes that without becoming one of the really-dead. I liked the weird (sorry - quirky just doesn't do it justice!) mix of characters and how they deal with becoming vampires and the unsettling thought of immortality. While this same story has been done before in many vampire stories both in film and print, this one has a good take on the story behind the story.
Adult Services Lead Librarian - Prescott Public Library
Deoman's of Faerel
by Ted Fauster
Review by: J.J.M. Czep
Ted Fauster's Deoman's of Faerel sets the stage for the hopefully many adventures that the characters will embark on. I am not typically a sword and sorcery reader though Fauster and others are turning me as I turn the pages of their stories. Through the misadventures of the main characters Fauster builds the world of Faerel. The mention of how spells are cast or memorized and some of the puzzles the main adventurers are pushed to solve offer an element of RPG fantasy to the telling that I really enjoyed. I am not sure if Fauster is a bigtime tabletop gamer, but if not he definitely understands the culture. That said, I have read other short stories and books with the RPG culture in mind that do not convey good storytelling. Deoman's is as good a story as it is a nod to the role playing games.
There are a lot of characters to follow in this first book and I have no doubt cast will not shrink in future books. So pay attention to who is who. I am most excited to read more about Faerel and the unique worlds it holds. Fauster has skill for description in general, and world building is something he seems to have a good time with as well as making the tour of this world an enjoyable experience for his readers. I look forward to reading more sword and sorcery genre books again especially the stories of Faerel and the heroes Fauster has introduced.