The Blurb on Other People’s Words – T. W. Brown and More

May 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm (writing)

Continuing on with books I like, since I haven’t received any review requests to date, I’ll be reviewing two very different books by an excellent writer named T. W. Brown, from May December Publications. I’ll also be reviewing another Trestle Press digital short.

ZomblogT. W. Brown

One of the commandments pushed by publishers and agents nowadays, that I hate as a reader, is the “thou must start thy book with an action scene”. With a few exceptions, I think this is absurd. I like to get to know the characters a bit, and get a good view of the setting for the story before I get thrown into the middle of the action. That’s not “gripping” to me, or a “hook”, it’s just meaningless chaos. That’s why I liked the intro to this book. You get to know the protagonist, Samuel, as a human being, like he could be your co-worker or your neighbour, before you are launched into the fray and considering it’s his tale, that’s incredibly important. You get some insight as to how he relates to his family and his outlook on the world in general.

Another thing I liked about this book is the depth of character displayed by even lesser characters. In other zombie stories, you’ll often see people lose what they are as the story progresses, giving in to their desperation and becoming too flawed to be likable. The characters in this book are also flawed, something necessary for realism, but still retain positive qualities and struggle to hold onto their humanity, despite their circumstances. Their shared troubles even prove to be a unifying experience for people who would have otherwise avoided one another. Some of the more tragic characters, like little Joey, will absolutely rip your heart out.

Not that there wasn’t gore or tense moments in the book. There were plenty of those – I would think enough to satisfy any die-hard zombie fan, but the factor I look for the most is the human component, the elements that make me really connect to the story and make it real for me. The characters were engaging, the plot was moving and the description was vivid. Nothing about the book was forced either. The narrative flowed smoothly and the dialogue was believable.

Finally, while I won’t offer any spoilers, there was a twist to the plot about two thirds of the way through the book that caught me way off guard. It’s difficult to surprise me, and this was completely unexpected, so I have to award kudos for that as well.

Dakota – Todd Brown

In some ways, Mr. Brown writes like a girl – but I mean that in the nicest way possible. I haven’t read a lot of books that have made me cry lately, writing sad and scary stories seems to numb you to that, but a few people manage to dig into you with their words and twist until it hurts. Evoking strong emotion is something I aim for myself, so I have to applaud other writers when they do it well. By about a sixth of the way into the book, I was already there, stuck dead centre in the middle of the story. I typically find those “shake-me-up” moments are reserved for the ending, so I appreciate it when a tale draws me in even sooner. It caught me by surprise in a few other ways as well.

In other ways, Mr. Brown also manages to write with a very masculine appeal, with plenty of fast-paced action and tough characters. I’m not usually fond of cop stories, so I was prepared to not like this book, but the story was stirring enough to push me past those prejudices, and there were plenty of unusual twists and turns to keep things interesting. He even had some of the stereotypical cop-story scenes, but his characters had sufficient personality that the author could make what should have been stale moments seem fresh to me. That and I’m a sucker for any story involving time-travel , as long as it has been well thought out, and anything in the past is written convincingly.

The other problem I normally have with cop or war stories is that the language used is often fairly simple and, for a better word, bland, but this was hardly a simple cop or war story. Mr. Brown was inventive enough with his description and use of vocabulary that I actually had to look words up (a rare occasion) – “concupiscence” BTW means “strong desire,” in this case, sexual. You learn something new every day.

Dakota was really entertaining, and I would recommend it as a great for men and women alike. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author, and I’m sure I will.

Debtor’s Chip Frederick – H.R. Toye

This was a surprisingly original digital short story from Trestle Press. While it reminded me in a few aspects of my own short story, Weighing Fate, in that it played off of the idea of someone being able to influence fate, it was also very different. I loved the chaotic way it jumped from scene to scene, giving you an exciting view of the story from varying perspectives without becoming too confusing to follow. It was a very clever story that allowed you plenty of insight into the protagonist’s personality and how he would react to differing circumstances. You feel for the protagonist, and share his joy and misery. This story gets a big thumbs-up from me – thoroughly enjoyable!


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