Dy's Take

October 22, 2011

The Nestorian Alliance by Michael Watson

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Indie Author,Mystery,Review Book — Dy @ 23:57

(81)  Jack Trader #1 (?)

Disclaimer:  A friend gave me a copy of this to review after running a charity auction for indie authors on her review blog (donate to Reading is Fundamental and move to the top of the review list!)

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This had good bones.  The his/tory of the search for the Ark of Noah (as opposed the Ark of the Covenant) is not one I’m familiar with and, despite having read a fair amount of thrillers, not one I’ve read before.

The book that was hung on the good plot idea needs work, though, and perhaps the author will update it in the future 🙂

I read, particularly indie books because they are notorious for issues that a good editor could have eliminated, like the editor that I am.

Pluses:

  • Like I said above, not much fiction that I’ve seen dealing with Noah’s Ark – props for something new-ish
  • Nice choice of era — I haven’t read much Cold War thriller material since I read Fleming’s Bond in junior high
  • Plausible plot with plausible (mostly) bumps in the road

*****     S P O I L E R   A L E R T     *****

*****     S P O I L E R   A L E R T     *****

*****     S P O I L E R   A L E R T     *****

*****     S P O I L E R   A L E R T     *****

*****     S P O I L E R   A L E R T     *****

Minuses:

  • #1 – SHOW, don’t tell. This book lapsed into random exposition a lot.  Sometimes it was to give the reader info needed to follow the story (not ideal, but acceptable, especially in a first book).  All too frequently, though, it was just to give us info we didn’t need.  i.e. If you use a character worksheet when fleshing out your people, do NOT give us every scrap of information on it. I do not need to know the vital statistics (age/height/weight/hair color/eye color/occupation/hobbies) of each character as they are introduced or when they speak.
  • In particular, Petrova drove me crazy with this.  The author makes references to her crying, or to her having some personal issues with her mission, but never goes into detail or follows through with it til the end of the book.  Don’t tell me, “The Major didn’t want to hurt the old man, but her mission was paramount.*” <*not an actual quote, paraphrasing from a scene> Instead, show me her reluctance as she slowly lifts her arm, palm sweaty as she tightens her grip on the gun, raises her weapon to pistol-whip him, then slows her arm at the last second and just taps him hard enough to knock him out.  (etc etc etc)
  • Tense, not tension.  The narrative kept switching between between present and past tense, sometimes in the same paragraph.
  • Getting perspective — the story shifted from first person to third person seeming at random – if you are going to do this (and it is hard to do well) make sure you clearly define the boundary for the reader, usually by starting a new chapter when the shift occurs.
  • Action up!  For an adventure/thriller this one took way to long to get to the action in general, and in particular the action involving the MC. It’s billed as “A Jack Trader Adventure” but poor Jack doesn’t start actually adventuring til chapter 8, then a lull, and it doesn’t really pick up again til around halfway through the book.
  • Needs character. Okay, granted, character development isn’t really a strong element in adventure fiction, but some change would be nice. Knowing the characters physical specs is not the same as knowing the character.  Everyone in the book was a little flat — if Jack is going to carry a series, he needs some depth, as do his two main supporting characters.
  • Research. Outside of the geology (the author is a geologist) and the Noah’s Ark bits, research seemed lacking, in particular stuff on Cold War USSR and the geopolitical climate of the early 50’s as well as military protocol in general. The military is a significant enough presence in this book that the lack of research shows.
  • Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.  Lots of simple errors that a new reader will see where someone familiar with the material will not. Dialogue tags, in particular were problematic.  Ex:
  • Frank who was listening spoke up, ‘”Well, I think we know why they changed their minds. They were scared off… or worse.  Onan can be very convincing.” Amir said, smiling.   Say what?  Pretty sure there’s supposed to be a close quotation after ‘worse’ and an open in front of ‘Onan’ but I can’t be sure (and yes, there should be a comma after ‘Frank,’ too).

Despite the seemingly endless list above, I did like and enjoy (when the editor in my head shut up!) the book.

I admire the author’s passion for his topic and his bravery in not only actually writing his book (something many of us, me included, have not done) AND in putting his book out there for the world to see, read, and occasionally pick apart.

I really hope he doesn’t think I’m being mean. I’d like to see more from him, and I hope my review might help him see some things he needs to work on for the next one.

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