lunes, 27 de abril de 2015

A sneak peek at Corsair, by James L. Cambias, and Where, by Kit Reed

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Corsair by Boards of Canada (Spotify, YouTube)

Audioclip: Thanks to the nice people at Audible, you can listen to a clip of Corsair for free.

As it happened to me with A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab, I've once again requested advanced reading copies of two novels (Corsair, by James L. Cambias, and Where, by Kit Reed) only to later find out that they were just extended previews and not the whole books. I must say that this fact was not stated at all on the request pages until a few hours after I had already got them, so I found myself stuck with two novel fragments and feeling a little bit cheated. I decided, however, to give them a try and it turned out that I'm now grateful for having received only a few chapters; what I read was enough to realize that I'm not interested in either novel, for different reasons.

A few weeks back I reviewed (in Spanish) A Darkling Sea, by James L. Cambias, a promising debut that, nonetheless, I found somehow lacking. Corsair is, again, a quick and easy read, with simple enough prose at the service of a straightforward story. Nothing bad with that, as I am more than capable of enjoying a good story without further pretensions if it is interesting enough. 

My problem with Corsair, though, is that nothing on this few chapters caught my attention so to make me want to read further. Whereas A Darkling Sea had a compelling worldbuilding and a couple of intriguing alien races, Corsair is set in a near future where pirates try and steal asteroids from space mining companies. The plot is much closer to a run-of-the-mill techno-thriller than to a groundbreaking science fiction story and it failed to keep me interested. Moreover, the characters are extremely clichéd and not especially believable, and I didn't care for them at all. 

Where, by Kit Reed, is exactly on the other end of the spectrum. The plot idea is certainly intriguing (a village suddenly and mysteriously disappears, with all its inhabitants, and nobody has a clue where it is now) and reminded me of some works by Robert Charles Wilson, for instance. The start is slow, however, and the preview I had access to ends just when things are beginning to get interesting. 

I'd have liked to read the rest of the novel to find about the missing town and people if not for quite a big issue: the prose didn't work at all for me. This might very well be a question of personal taste, but I found the Reed's style almost impossible to follow and enjoy. Everything was written in a kind of staccato, with fragmented, ambiguous sentences, arcane descriptions and details thrown in at strange moments and a continuous out-of-focus feeling. This was especially evident in the dialog, with characters that seem physically unable, for the life of them, to utter a complete sentence:
"Wait!" Steele followed, matching him step for step. "This is..."
"What?" Davy snapped around in a full 360, glaring. "What!"
"It's..." This is when he got weird. "I don't want to cause a panic but this is serious, and you look like the right man..."
If I ask, he wins. Make him wait.
Steele waited a beat too long. He said, "Something's about to", and didn't finish. He said, "It's just.". But he didn't say just what. 
I confess that I found this kind of writing to be irritating and it completely threw me out of the novel. I wouldn't have read further even if I'd had the whole book in my hands.

Your mileage may vary wildly, of course, and you should not forget that my reviews are based, in this case, in just about one hundred pages of each novel, but I wouldn't recommend either Corsair or Where. In any case, they currently show a price tag of more than €20 for the electronic edition, so I think I would have passed anyway.

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