|A friend once told me he hated reviews of his work in fan
fora. It was fine if they liked it but if woe betide you if they didn't. They would be
likely to go to great lengths to pour scorn on your oeuvre unto the seventh generation.
Happily there is no need for me to go to such lengths...this time.
On a recent trip home
to the catch up with Whanau I happened to glance at the local paper, for no good reason
other than it was lying on the table while I breakfasted. (I say no good reason because it
is long past the time when there was any decent journalism in New Zealand. What is left is
a pale imitation. This is not a rose tinted view of the past, it is simple fact. Where has
the cutting investigative railings and incisive analysis gone? Journalism in NZ, sad to
say, has become so PC and dumbed down it is nothing more then entertainment at best but I
There, amongst the coffee stains and crumbs, was a face from the past. An old school
friend had just published a young adult novel or should that be Novel. At 1500 pages it is
a weighty tome indeed. Following current trends it is only available, as a single volume,
in eBook form. The print version is a trilogy (which thankfully, for now at least, does
only have 3 volumes in it).
The article wasn't so much about the book or his being a local author as the fact that
he had written it on a smart phone while (breathless pause) commuting. My first thought
was to wonder if he wrote it in txt. My second was that people have been working while
commuting for decades (see what I mean about the dumbing down of journalism). The real
story that was there to be found was completely ignored.
My curiosity piqued I acquired a copy and started reading. Broadly Changels:
Genesis is the story of a group of young teens (did I tell you it is a young
adult story, its a young adult story), with psychic gifts, brought together by a not so
mad scientist. Their task is to help identify and find several other teens who will prove
pivotal, in the future, in helping guide the world through a period of instability and
uncertainty. A time where humanities self destructive urges might just destroy it, to a
time when it might just be accepted as mature enough to join a small group of Galactic
civilisations (which, as the way of these things, are themselves at odds with one another
and interfering on Earth). On the way they have to battle the bad aliens, inadvertently
assist the not so bad aliens and keep clear of the not really interested aliens. Helped
along the way by maybe bad but maybe not aliens. There are gadgets, soulless aliens,
bloodsucking aliens, cool aliens, more gadgets, elements of horror and fantasy. Oh yes and
they save the world. Boy, what you can cram in to 1500 pages.
It has many weaknesses. Transliterated accents. Very difficult to get right and very
distracting if you don't. Infodumps, which add nothing to the story and are they really
needed? Having said that, they are a time honoured literary tradition. (Some 150 pages of
Victor Hugo's Les Miserable are taken up with them. One runs on for almost 60
pages. In some editions these are removed or added in the back in a kind of appendix. The
tale suffers not in the least for this.) Lectures by various characters (which are another
version of infodump). That aside there is a solid backbone of narrative, derring do for
the modern age.
The story is told, in the first person, by one of these teens. Sam Kahu a young maori
boy from up North on the Hokianga. Sam sees ghosts and can read minds, after a fashion. It
switches back and forth between the action in the present and the past (as he describes to
a policewoman, he has befriended, how he has come to be where he is). The story opens in
the present just after their secret base (on a small island in the Hauraki Gulf) has been
evacuated and destroyed rather than let it fall into bad alien hands. Sam has been left
behind and is being held by police as the sole survivor of the tragedy (to them it looks
like arson and missing persons). After many adventures the bad guys are defeated the world
is put to rights and the policewoman joins their merry band.
It is part modern day morality play, part parable, part rollicking adventure. It draws
inspiration from and pays homage to elements of the worlds great mythologies sometimes
subtly sometimes not so (Queen Morganne of the Phae). It is at its best when, the main
character, Sam is telling it as he sees it. Plainly, unvarnished and without explanations.
These passages flow and sometimes just beg to be read aloud. More often it flags and would
benefit from heavy editing.
What can I say, I did enjoy it but I would be hard pressed to recommend it. I can see a
really good 800 to 1000 page read in there. There is a bit too much in it, the author has
tried to cover too much ground. Why can't I recommend it? Lovers of horror and the
supernatural may be put off be the hard SF elements. If you are looking for a fantasy fix
the moments are pretty well diluted. The hard SF fans will scoff at the fantasy and horror
elements. You begin to see the problem.
A word about eBooks now. I do like them I can carry my entire electronic library around
with me for those times when you get trapped in a lift or your plane is hijacked. Better
still, to quote a friend, when you are waiting for someone who is late and they apologise
for delaying you you can always say...' I knew you would be late so I brought 7 1/2
thousand books to keep me occupied.' But, do they not use proof readers any more? The
misuse of words and grammatical errors I find in eBooks (and more and more frequently in
printed ones) makes me despair.
Language is a treasure, it should be treated with courtesy and respect. To have it
mangled by technology, to save a few dollars no doubt, should be a hanging offence. The
eBook version of Changels: Genesis that I read was filled with
spelling errors (not so much), grammatical errors, duplications, omissions and other
horrors (and eBooks have their own special catalogue of those, sub- or super-script when
it shouldn't be just for an example) than the author intended. They disrupt the flow of
the story. It would have benefited greatly from robust proofing.
This seems to be the way of eBooks, I have yet to read one that is free of them. In
fact one was so bad, and it was a book that I love, I was compelled to proof it myself.
(Does that constitue violation of copyright and for that matter how to you get an eBook
autographed, what would an eBook book signing look like?) Worst of all you are 15 pages
from the end, all is about to be revealed and...'Please Charge Your eReader'