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As you know, Bob . . .

By Donna Sirianni, member

Dec 11, 2008: ***Please note, having not read Children of the Halo, this story was reviewed as if it stood alone. The sequel note in the summary above was made after I posted this review and I missed the original, small, passing reference on the story site indicating this story as a sequel. My review was revised with that fact in mind but considering I focus mostly on the writing itself instead of the story, not much was changed.

I struggled with this story. I mean really struggled to get through it because I just wasn’t interested in what was going on. It didn’t have much to do with the plot per se but more how it was written.

The term "as you know, Bob" is used to describe statements in stories that are made to fill the reader in although it’s information the character on the receiving end of the speech should already know. It’s something that wouldn’t actually happen in realistic dialogue. Why would you reiterate something to someone when they already know what you’re talking about? Would they not look at you like you had six heads?

If it wasn’t an "as you know, Bob," they were strategically placed "what do you mean"’s or "what is that"’s. Way too many to be passed off as seamless or feasible. It just resulted in meandering info-dumps that seemed contrived at best. Considering the situations they were being said in (conversing with the enemy, for instance), they could just seem downright implausible. Why would the opposing side stop to explain how his two-way bird functioned in the middle of negotiations?

Then there are the saids. Said, said, said, said, said. Whomever said that "said" as a dialogue tag is invisible was a big fat liar. If used enough, not only is it not invisible, it’s nails on a chalk board. And 99% of the saids in this story were pointless. Really, there’s no reason to have "this character said" and "that character said" after nearly every single line of dialogue between just the two characters. Establish who’s speaking and after that, use tags only when absolutely necessary (not to be confused with actions). Plus, a lot of the dialogue occurred in voids, meaning there were large blocks of speech with nothing much else going on. A lot of times it ended up being two voices talking to each other in darkness than two feasible characters, in my mind anyway.

And the nodding. Those characters nodded so much they might has well been human bobble heads. There are many more synonymous words to use to bodily portray agreement or understanding.

What really bothered me though was the why and the how. Why was British Columbia on this foreign planet? How did it end up there and how in the world was everyone acclimating so easily, especially after just a month? For me there were just too many vague references to things that I didn’t have any kind of basis for comparison for and way too many plotlines caught in the middle overlapping each other. I had a really hard time trying to keep all of the characters straight and who was involved with who and who was doing what and how.

On top of all of that, I felt the writing was pretty lifeless. It was all telling, no showing. A story was being dictated to me. I didn’t get to experience it. I didn’t care for any of the characters and I felt like I didn’t know any of them after five really long chapters. I just felt like I was being bombarded with sterile information and was left wondering "what do I do with this?"

And this line really bothered me—"I like you enough that I’m going to put it all on the line, wear my heart on my sleeve and put myself out there."

I still don’t know if the onslaught of cliches was intentional by the author to sort of mock the moment (not likely considering the tone of the rest of the story, at least from what I got) or if it was supposed to be purposeful by the character, diving deep into cliches because he was that type of character (I really don’t know since I don’t know the character).

Or what worries me most is that these words were the best that could be used to describe the character’s feelings and were thrown in there to try and get the reader to understand the character better. It’s the potential for the seriousness of that line that gets to me. I’m all for the use of cliches if well-disguised but if that isn’t intentional, then I would highly recommend the author dig a little deeper than the surface of cliched human speech to come up with something a little more creative and original in order to portray one character’s feelings for another.

It just seems . . . lazy, as if the author couldn’t come up with anything else so instead relied on cliches to get the point across. This is the most blatant use of them (next to the nodding) but there are others.

However, I think there are some really interesting concepts buried in here, like all the different types of magi. I wish I’d actually seen some of that instead of off-handed references clouded over by after-the-fact details that don’t really mean much to me because I’m coming to the party late and things are winding down. I wish the world itself was used more as its own character instead of just as background fodder that the characters play in front of. Not to mention it lacks focus within the chapters themselves. I think everything would have been much easier to digest had multiple pieces of plotlines not been lumped together in single posts.

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