Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Soulstealer War: The First Mother's Fire by WL Hoffman

First published in 2007.

Unemployed after graduation, Kenneth McNary seeks inspiration on the Appalachian Trail. He never suspected that it would find him first. Ken is transported to a fairytale world by a god-like sentience and is tasked with uniting the world's denizens for a coming war - a war with eternal consequences for every soul consumed by the Enemy.

While grappling with metaphysics and the dangers of his strange surroundings, Ken learns that the few humans inhabiting the realm are meek slaves to near-immortal beings who have lost their magic. Complicating this situation is a mysterious new race of magic wielders and the reappearance of subterranean, flesh-eating creatures long thought extinct.

To survive the perils and embrace his destiny in a land hostile to humanity, Ken must discover the Fire within. But he faces two problems: he is a novice pitted against masters, and the magic may kill him before the masters do!
(book back blurb)

Sounds interesting, right? I was talking to the author at BEA last year and he was explaining the premise to me and it just sounded so neat. Scientific fantasy. Stuff that might be explainable. It was different from a lot of the fantasy I'd read so I snagged a copy. It sat in my reading pile since then simply because it got buried and I just didn't get around to reading it until last week.

Or attempting to read it is more like it.

It was like wading through sludge up to your neck. This is pure masturbatory work if I've ever read any. If you're unfamiliar with the term, when I say a work is masturbatory, I'm meaning that it's nothing more than the author exerting their stash of fifty cent SAT words and patting themselves on the back for it. Or grabbing for the lotion, as it were.

This book is so bogged down in overwrought nonsense that I consistently found myself pondering the mystery of shirt fuzz to bring some excitement into my reading. It was a process just to get about 50 pages in and then I just couldn't handle it anymore. There were way too many "he thought about it" followed by large blocks of italicized text of the MC talking through explanations. Nothing is shown. Everything is told. I was lectured at the entire time I was reading.

There is a potentially good story and great world buried until all the pretentious crap flooding the pages but the ground was too frozen for me to keep digging. I just had to stop. Yeah, I know I was getting into science but I wasn't expecting this:
. . . Although Ken rarely spoke about his sixth sense, as it wouldn't mesh with the propriety necessary for a corporate legal career, it wasn't long before he had elicited Barb's opinion during one of the crew's midnight sessions. In her classic psych way, between a cigarette puff and a sip of gin, she had summed it up as fleeting microcapsules when his subconscious tapped a high awareness state, collated information strands from the surroundings into bundled inference, and then manifested the resulting cues to his conscious self as a motor response. It was a comfortingly mundane explanation for something that for so long had seemed so baffling.
Isn't that just so clear? Like reading a physics textbook when you're failing the class. Everything I read was like this, either from a legal or scientific standpoint. I wasn't expecting this level of technicality when I picked up a work of fiction. If I wanted something like this, I'd actually grab a textbook.

I just felt the author didn't want to so much tell a story as he wanted to showcase his vocabulary and scientific knowledge. Thanks, but I'll pass. If you can wade through something like this, more power to you. Tell me how it pans out. But I just couldn't bring myself to slog through it. I didn't find it worth my time. Any book that can't keep my attention I'm not about to force myself to read. I'm not in school anymore hence I don't have any grades pending on my knowledge of the material.

Because I couldn't finish it, I'm not rating it although I doubt it'd rate very high even if I got to the end. The language and writing style didn't seem to be letting up any time soon.

1 comment:

Stormy said...

I read out the quoted section of the book to my boy, and he proclaimed "WORD SOUP!", and I heartily agree. :P

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