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A Word on Cake

By Syphax, author of Stone Burners

Oct 3, 2014: To me, a story is like a cake. If you mix together flour, sugar, eggs, and so on together, you get the cake itself. Combine plot, prose, and characters, and you get a story. How tasty the cake/story is depends on the quality of the ingredients and how well you put them together. But a cake alone without frosting is boring, just as a story with its aforementioned plot and characters interacting in an empty void is boring. A story needs a good amount of exposition and world building to add flavor to it. But put too much frosting on, and the cake is smothered.

How does this apply to Reject Hero, you may ask? Well, I feel as though an excellent cake was prepared, then one half was removed and replaced by a tub of frosting with a spoon sticking out of it. Half the story is damn good, the other half reads like a comment section discussing the first half.

The beginning was a bit discombobulating (Haha! Big words!) as we are introduced to Strangest and his strange power. It’s not just a clever name, you see, there are about a thousand caveats and subtleties to his power, and we slowly find them out as he progresses. He can’t control his power, even stubbing his toe hard enough would make it activate. Said power causes everyone, friend or foe, to try to murder him. Even the nicest of people would be filled with hate and try to beat him to death with a roasted chicken or something. This, as you could imagine, is not conductive to team building activities.

Eventually we find that Strangest is actually a good family man named Zeke, trying to live with his disruptive power. Because, keep in mind, his power makes his family try to kill him. While middle aged man does not exactly scream interesting, throw in telepaths and it all evens out. Yes, telepath vigilantes come up, and the next several chapters include characters stating every last one of the implications of telepaths to us.

This brings me to my main complaint: all the characters stopping everything and just talk about the implications and reasoning behind the stuff that is actually interesting to read. Rather than dealing with it as it comes up, or expressing it through character observations and actions, they all sit down and explain it all. I hope you like negotiations, because there will be a lot, and a good quarter of the time it is rehashing what you already know.

As well, author omniscience occasionally creeps in. Example: at one point Zeke is teleported from his house to somewhere else on the globe, we don’t know where initially. First thing he notices: he is choking on smoke and is hearing screaming, therefore the building he is in is on fire. That’s fine. Next thing he notices: there are a bunch of unmade beds everywhere, therefore people grabbed some sheets and maybe made ropes to climb out the windows. Zeke then starts to collect sheets to do the same.

What? There was no train of thought there. He just looked up and knew he should get some sheets, even though we don’t see any sheet ropes sticking out of the windows of the room he’s in. He didn’t think “Where is the fire?” or “Where are the screaming people?” or any combination thereof. Then he finds some people and the sheets he collected poof out of existence, so that whole bit was pointless anyways. This isn’t an ex-firefighter or military man we’re talking about, this is a small time CEO guy. Adrenaline has a nice way of squishing the logic portions of your brain without training.

One of my other pet peeves pops up as well, and that is character telling the MC nearly every damn chapter how smart he is. A man who is being set up as Zeke’s nemesis, a magical coven, a couple of telepathic vigilantes, and others have all commented on how clever he is, and it got old after the fifth or sixth time.

OK, enough harping. There is many a reason I read this.

Characterization is extremely well done. Zeke’s family, consisting of his wife and teenage son, read like an actual family. Him and his wife are not a Mary Sue couple, but you feel as though you are reading about a happy and loving couple. The family has little traditions and in jokes and hobbies. Beyond them, the main villain is amazingly well written. I find my hands clenching in anger every time he shows up, and he only ever has conversations on the phone with Zeke. Other characters, even minor one off ones, aren’t paper cutouts.

Technically, the writing is solid. The only real recurring typo I could find are missing quotation marks around dialogue.

The action and plot progression, when they do occur, are written smoothly. You actually feel tense when the psycho murderer descends from the sky, you feel a dawning sense of realization as a major plot question is revealed and then explained to death and bad Syphax, no more harping.

I may have whinged about it before, but the sheer amount of thought the author has put into his work is commendable. While I get the feeling characters only overlook something so that the author has something to work with later without his characters having perfect information, you can tell no character stupidity is getting into this story unless the character is stupid.

As it stands, Reject Hero could use less exposition and more substance. When it comes through, the cake is amazing, if only I didn’t need to shovel frosting down my throat to get to it. Damn, I need to stop typing these things when I’m hungry. Read Reject Hero.

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