Dec 4, 2008: Reading the first five chapters of this story was like slogging through mud up to my thighs. I’ve never taken so long to read what is rightly such a short amount of words but the tedium with which the story is told wore me down.
Every piece of minutiae, every asinine conversation, nearly every bit of movement was portrayed in these chapters in what I could only think of as a means to move the plot forward, as if there wasn’t anything else to drive it except a ticking clock.
I hope you want to find out how to build an airplane and what it’s parts are, because you’ll get a lesson in all of that just from the first five chapters. Aside from the gross amount of technicalities, a lot of description and what can only be described as emotion was redundant. Overly so. Jackie’s hesitance, for instance, about taking the trip with Mark is reiterated multiple times, sometimes within the same chapter. It made the length of the chapters unwarranted since most of them could be chopped down and the redundancy and unimportant, unnecessary details removed in order to further the story much more quickly.
The problem I see here is that the telling focuses on just that, telling the reader about stitching the wing and having them listening to unimportant dialogue instead of showing us how the characters are actually developing. I’ve read a handful of chapters into Busted Axle Road, also by Wes, and his particular method of storytelling is a bit dry but at least with Busted Axle, the momentum and pacing made the story advance instead of pull itself along at a painfully slow pace. I was actually driven to read more of Busted Axle. Not so with Rocinante.
To me, Wes writes more traditional stories. Nothing fantastical. Very grounded in reality and very anchored in ordinary people, places and things. I see nothing wrong with this so long as there’s a story to tell. The only part of this story that jerked me a little was at the end of the fifth chapter where Mark was leaving for his trip so suddenly. I wasn’t expecting it that soon and it took my by surprise and I thought ‘he can’t leave yet!’ But that’s it. The rest was too steeped in everyday reality to be of any interest. Not that reality can’t be interesting, but there’s got to be a better way to show character development than through ribstitching.
I wanted to see into the characters heads (there was hopping but I didn’t really find it jarring). I wanted to really feel them but I felt they were just an out of focus movie that I was watching. Or paint drying. I didn’t feel Jackie’s pain of wanting to go on the trip but "couldn’t." I didn’t feel her and Mark’s connection when they kissed and I just didn’t care about looking through the telescope because all Jackie did was ooo and ahh about it. I didn’t feel her love for it. I was just told about it. Everything these two did together felt like carefully coordinated steps instead of the natural progression of the story. It didn’t help that segues from one chapter, scene or chapter point felt just as staccato.
There’s a story buried in here somewhere but the day-to-day meanderings of the characters really need to be chiseled away and the attention refocused on the characters instead of their actions which really, for the most part, are irrelevant to the base of the story (are the technicalities of painting a wing necessary?), in order for the story to shine. At this point, that’s the only way I see that happening.
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