Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: "Marked for Vengeance" by S. J. Pierce

I found Marked for Vengeance: The Alyx Rayer Chronicles difficult to read. Not, mind you, that it’s not an interesting story; I’d go so far as to call it an intriguing story; it’s just that there are certain things about it that makes it very difficult to hang in for the long slog.

The preface, which explains the author’s motivation for writing this novel, would have been better as an author’s end-note. Placed where it is, at the very beginning, it seems to foreshadow everything that will follow. And, of course, the following prologue seems to be of a piece; we’re allowed to witness the ‘birth’ of some strange creatures, or perhaps actually the ‘rebirth;’ “Waiting to be brought to life, their bodies felt more like prisons to their souls that shuddered in response to the darkness around them. Her mind reeled with images, distant, agonizing memories of the last two times she had endured this torture, and her frozen muscles itched for movement so she could flee.” Are we witnessing the appearance of some alien being, angels, perhaps? The author carefully, and sneakily, does not say.

In chapter one, we’re introduced to Alyx Rayer, and only because of the book’s subtitle and that pesky preface are we able to believe that she just might be one of the ‘strange’ beings, until it is revealed to us near the end of the chapter.

I think you’re getting the picture; this is a story of the ‘aliens among us,’ but one with a few twists over the standard ‘encounter’ tales. An interesting concept, that I mostly enjoyed reading, but for a few faults. First; the formatting of the e-Book was extremely distracting, with sudden spacings separating sentences, causing the eye to stumble while reading, and initially wondering if this was intentional or just an oversight. Then, there were the sudden shifts in point of view, from one character to another, from third person omniscient to third person limited. This is great in experimental fiction, but when you want readers to get to know and care about your characters, it’s a bit off-putting. Finally, the dialogue tends in many places to be a bit too wooden, as if the character was reading from a note pad rather than actually speaking, and there are too many unnecessary tags, such as ‘her hands balled angrily into fists,’ that don’t really add to the flow of the story in any significant way – rather, they detract from it.

Like I said, even though it was hard to read, I did enjoy Mark of Vengeance, even though I didn’t totally understand it. It shows signs of developing into a fascinating trilogy, or maybe even a series if the author takes note of the aforementioned weaknesses, and, either corrects them, or makes sure readers know they’re part of the story.