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Many Curious Returns to the Scene

By ElliottThomasStaude, author of Mourners, Abednego, Persistence

May 2, 2019: Technically Abroad is technically rough, yet practically . . . something unexpectedly endearing. Hold onto that thought, we’ll pick it up again momentarily. It’s a fantasy work which has a number of syntactic and semantic blemishes: that is, spelling and grammar might benefit from a second run-over. Those blemishes kept me doubling back over sentences from time to time to reparse what I just read for comprehension. One instance: “Now I’m sure you know, but this an indication of promotion to be red yet.” The line is, in context, obviously a reference to the protagonist’s moving up in the local guild’s chromatic-themed rankings – from the bottommost rung of black to the next echelon of red. It’s fairly exemplary of the kind of linguistics I’ve found a bit off-putting in places. The author making themselves objectively understood isn’t a problem, but cleanliness is somewhat lacking.

The fantasy aspect of this story isn’t one that would light the world on fire, perhaps, but it’s serviceably alien and has that all-important draw that tells a person that we’re dealing with a place not our own. Therianthropes, elvish folk, magic, pre-mechanized society; yep, this isn’t the Terra we know. It falls, so far, more on the everyman’s level of perspective than many other fantasy works; we’re obviously following someone important to events, but he isn’t shooting lightning from his eyeballs or healing the lame. He’s just a fairly regular guy for the most part, doing fairly-regular-guy things. That’s actually a bit of an interesting element of the story in itself; protagonist Victor spends an unusual amount of time trying to figure out how he ought to shed himself of the goods on his person after realizing that he’s no longer in Kansas. Following his actions and mentality can be a bit of a roundabout affair, and it’s not always clear whether this is intentional.

Now, having said all this about awkwardness and “ought to be more polished,” let me also say that I would really REALLY like to see this actually get that polish, because so far I’ve had a bit of a guilty-pleasure thing with Technically Abroad. It has a special something that comes of a synergy between what is told and how that telling is achieved. As previously mentioned, the focus is more head-height than canopy-height. Dude gets displaced, dude tries to find basic work in a town’s guild. It’s an oddly cozy and relaxing experience to read, even during the few distinctly actiony bits. For that matter, Technically Abroad has a curiously compelling aspect in how it does perspective. Victor’s past on good ol’ Earth isn’t the subject of tremendous attention. Even after an hour plus of reading, not much was made clear except that he was a student, and his fellow students also suffered the same transportational inconvenience. The spotlight that shows events happening around him has a very small radius, and that also contributes to a slightly detached tranquility. We’re basically limited to the realistic range of Victor’s meaty eyeballs, and that’s something that some people will consider a detriment, and that others will find enjoyable.

Is it for everyone? Well, there’s notable room for improvement, but I’ve been inevitably drawn back every time I leave for one reason or another, and that’s a good bit better than other things I’ve read. A placid recommendation for now, and with a bit of improvement that will probably turn into a quite enthusiastic one.

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