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Ordinary people, signs of special writing

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Mar 11, 2012: "Special People" features a somewhat interesting premise for superpowers—characters have unusual abilities that very rarely come in handy. Instead of following a Superman or The Hulk, the story follows ordinary people.

I say "somewhat interesting premise" because there’s a reason comic books are about superheroes and not their neighbours—we all know what ordinary life is like, and there’s not much escapism in following an ordinary person whose arms can fall off, or who can make bacon appear in mid-air. Watching them in their odd friendships, dating mishaps and capers never has the thrill element of an X-men, issue, and never becomes as funny as a Friends episode either.

The story’s greatest strength is in the clarity of its writing—the author has a clean, descriptive style that can convey humour, tension and action very well. However, that skill isn’t being used to its full potential, as the story’s format prevents a real connection with the text. There will be short, one-off slice of life chapters about individual "specials" and their role in society, and then a series of chapters following a plot, and then another random one-off. It varies between humour, suspense, adventure and date movie—and ultimately the entire series begins to seem like a workshop for the writer to try different things without settling on one story.

While that kind of versatility is to be commended, changing gears so much means the story lacks an emotional core, a reason to get really invested in the story, its world or its characters. The series is clever and inventive, but it’s not emotionally gripping. The closest thing to a heart to the story is the character SMS, who is a "human cell phone" able to call and text people without carrying a device. He works for a man who recruits specials, and is working to betray this man for murdering SMS’s mother—the intrigue could be very suspenseful and intriguing, if handled properly, but the story drifts between so many characters and narrative styles that the opportunity to make the intrigue count is lost.

The chapters surrounding one arc, "King of the Dark" show that the writer, Tim, can focus on one plot, character development, humour and suspense and sustain them for an actual narrative that’s entertaining. When the talent is focused, it has some great results. Unfortunately, the rest of the series is trying to integrate too many ideas, without giving the reader time to focus on one enough to leave a lasting emotional impression.

If the author can find his groove and develop a focused, emotional core to the narrative all of the clarity, cleverness and humour might fuse to create a great story. However, as it stands it’s like watching a talented mind brainstorm before it finally constructs a masterpiece, and the problem with storms is they’re chaotic. A writer to watch, but maybe not the best forum for the potential being hinted at.

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