Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sample Review: Powerless: The Synthesis by Jason Letts

Powerless: The Synthesis is a young adult novel from Jason Letts. It's the first of a five-part series, and has been reviewed positively elsewhere. The story involves a teenaged girl named Mira who lives on a world where everyone has a special power. Mira herself does not have a power, which makes her unusual, and potentially in danger.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I love the concept, and I give Letts credit for creating an interesting world and an engaging storyline. It did keep me reading, and I felt that the book was fun and creative. I do think a young reader would enjoy it.

But here was my issue---it stopped me reading even though I enjoyed the story, and it prevents me from recommending it. It has some noticeable errors in grammar, punctuation and language usage. Absent a professional editor to do it for him, the author needs to do some work to clean it up. And to me, this was a fatal flaw.

In a novel intended for adults, I could excuse the occasional mistake and the slight diamond in the roughness of it. I would note it in my review and recommend the book on the strength of its story and interest. BUT---this novel is intended for younger readers, and to me, that means it has to hold itself to a higher standard. Young readers learn about language and writing and grammar from what they read. I simply could not in good conscience turn them loose on a story---no matter how fun---which had obvious errors that even a half-decent editor could fix. I would not want them learning, the wrong way, from a book like this when there are professionally edited alternatives.

I feel badly about this. I was really having mixed feelings about posting this review. I really did enjoy the story, until I reluctantly gave up because I knew what my recommendation would have to be. I do think this is one of those 'internet slushpile' finds that, were it 'discovered' by the big boys, has the potential to be a huge commercial hit. A professional publishing house could smooth out some of the grammar nitpicks, clean up some of the redundant usages (the few negative reviews on Amazon mark the story down for the same reasons I do and cite examples) and make this book really shine. But as it stands now, it's still more rough than diamond. And that's excusable when you're writing for grown-ups who can shrug and no better. But when you're writing for kids? Hell, no. You've got to do it properly.

Sorry, Mr. Letts. I did really enjoy your creative story and think it has huge potential. But I can't recommend it until you find someone to take that potential and really make it shine.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Vampire General- Intern with the Vampire by Kit Iwasaki

Vampire General- Intern with the Vampire by Kit Iwasaki was described to me as 'True Blood Meets Scrubs' and I have to admit, I was intrigued. I purchased the book myself without even contacting the author about a review copy!

The book pretty much lives up to its promise---well-written, brisk-paced, very readable. A human doctor finds herself swept up into the world of the supernatural when a mysterious patient costs her her job, and she accepts his offer to go work at his hospital, which services the 'transhuman' population. The two cases she follows involve a mermaid and a man with 'zombie genes' who needs help reanimating safely.

The story itself was overall great fun, but I have two complaints. Firstly, it's super-short. The word count listed at Smashwords is a respectable 30,000 and change, but the description fails to mention that a full 10% of this is a different story by another author. Had I known that the actual story I was paying for was so brief, I would probably not have shelled out $1.99 for it.

The other complaint was the characters themselves. Even our heroine admits that her new co-workers are mean and unappealing. It's such a fascinating premise the author has set up here, it's a shame to soil it with such nasty people. They hate the heroine for no apparent reason, dismiss her legitimate questions, tell her they don't really care when she raises a genuine medical issue and in short have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I'm not quite sure why the author made this choice, either. There was plenty of danger, intrigue and romance just in the premise. Grey's Anatomy, but with vampires? Neato. So why did the author have to make all the characters so darned unlikeable?

I am giving this a 3.5/5 for clever concept and passable execution, but if it had been a little bit longer (or cheaper), and if the main characters had been in the slightest way appealing, this could have been an easy 5/5.