Power: The Shadows, by J.J. Angel - 3 Stars

Here’s a placeholder review because this is a novella (146pp) in the pre-publication stage and the author has sent me an uncorrected manuscript to review. I picked up a number of errors and communicated those to the author, so will speak of this book on the assumption that the spelling and punctuation issues will be fixed before it’s published and you get to see it. I also understand that the first few pages might be tinkered with.
Observation No.1: This would work much better as a script for television or film, as the edgy atmosphere of being hunted by a capable alien beastie communicates very well to the reader. It isn’t a slasher horror but that feeling that a presence is going to jump out or prowl toward you, which can outrun you and there’s no help, is psychologically thrilling in the arena the author has devised; and builds from fantasy into situations that make you tangibly nervous. When something gets dropped in the story and the author writes “CRASH!”, the reader jumps. The red colours and shadows, deep woods and isolated characters are very Scorsese, especially the use of reds. He must be doing something right.
The movements between alien tragedy, impending storm, scary woods, diversity, scientists, schools and then confrontational fantasy are all workable elements. The momentum of fear in the story was building beautifully and then got dissipated when too many pages were spent following a group of boys at school. It’s up to a writer how a book is structured but I do wonder if introducing the characters could have happened in the first third and then some core characters could be followed through the rest of the tale as the momentum builds, so the wave gets heavier rather than going up and down and up. The problem tied in with this is that for most of the book we don’t get to know characters in any deeper sense because they are introduced and then drop dead in increasingly disposable succession. Part of me wants to follow one character throughout but another part of me cheers when authors break boring old formats, so you might be able to convince me either way but I do know the only way readers are ever going to care about a character is if the character is allowed to grow on them. It is possible that this book, the first of a series, is to introduce the two characters of Amare and Rupert, so they can grow on the readership and establish a following across the series. If so, that’s fine.
The writing style could be worked on as it isn’t exactly Masefield. However, anything truly televisual isn’t either, which is deeper, further and even slashier evidence that this might be in the second or third choice format. The Friday 13th script would make an awful book because the way people speak is entirely different to the masterclass that people expect when reading novel-standard prose. They occupy different layers of cultural geography, like the mantle and the stratosphere, both equally valid but either would look uncomfortable if they were seen in the other’s format. The definition of a weed is “Any plant which is out of place”, so any flower at all, no matter how beautiful, becomes a weed in the wrong location. Multimedia suggests that a single project can be reproduced in several different ways, the book of the film of the song of the game, so all I’m saying is this story is ready-made for the visual, performance arts, to which the author’s use of language would be best directed.
I’m rating it at 3 stars because it does have imaginative value and it does change the way the reader feels (unsafe), which is what the story is supposed to do, like a date film which makes your bf act all protective, like he might be needed at any moment to save you from shape shifters or whatnot. This is a book with a good spoonful of fantasy that does make you scared. It should be a script though.


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