Justacat's Reviews > Mortal Enemies

Mortal Enemies by J.L. Farnsworth
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Sep 23, 2010

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Read in September, 2010

I began this book with a sinking feeling in my heart - the initial pages constitute an expository info-dump of the most amateurish tell-not-show sort, the author narrating to us in one fell swoop appearance and basic important characteristics of all major characters. It's a longish novel, and I seriously doubted my ability to make it through if this continued.

Happily the pace did improved dramatically as the story progressed, though the tendency to tell rather than show, to engage in too much exposition, definitely remained a serious weak point; it's typical of new authors and is something this author most definitely needs to work on. Even aside from the narration of feelings and emotions and huge chunks of the characters' pasts, there were way too many incidences of using phrases like "the African-American captain" as a way to impart information to the reader - that's just bad writing. (And I swear, if Tyler's eyes had sparkled, danced, or twinkled one more time I seriously might have emailed the author on the spot.)

Beyond that - well, much about this book was over the top. As a few others have commented, the protagonist, Tyler, was a paragon in many ways - his many talents just boggled the mind (not to mention his ability to engage in amazing feats despite dire injury). And the villains took villainy to new heights.

I've thought about this a little, though, and I concluded that this is something I can live with. I guess it depends on what the author was trying to achieve - if she was going for realism, she missed the mark by miles. But 100% realism isn't necessarily the only goal. I analogize it in some ways to a sort of James Bond; you watch Bond, you're not really looking for true-to-life realism. You enter the Bond world, you kind of just accept that he is a bit larger than life, that he can bring down scores of bad guys and fight off villains even with gunshot wounds and endure torture, and that the bad guys are really, really bad and have uncanny abilities to always turn up right where they need to be. The new Bond makes it even better, because he's also a sort of damaged, vulnerable guy.

It's sort of the same thing here - with the author even going for the vulnerable thing - and I found myself rolling my eyes a few times, sure, but not really minding too much, actually kind of enjoying it, once I just let myself accept it as that sort of book, let myself see Tyler not as - well, not perfect, because he has flaws, but with a super-competence, with skills and abilities that go beyond what seem possible in a "real" person.

(Of course, this does make a character a little more difficult for readers, at least this reader, to connect with emotionally - though in this case that also has a lot to do with the writing, with the telling-not-showing issue; it's always more difficult to connect with a character when the author just tells me about him than when she is skillful enough to enable me to feel him, feel for him, empathetically and vicariously through what I'm shown about him and through his actions.)

So I, unlike some of the reviewers, liked this aspect of the book (though I'm hoping the author did it consciously and wasn't actually going for realism!). Nonetheless, the book could have used some pruning. Surprisingly - at least I was surprised! - it kept my interest and attention throughout much of its length, but the ending dragged a little, and the last fight scene certainly was beginning to feel repetitive. It's a judgment call, of course, but sometimes an author needs to know when enough is enough, and again, there were a number of occasions when this book went over the top a little too much.

Overall - not one of my favorite reads ever, not a great book, but it captured my interest and kept my attention (which certainly not all books do!), and I actually remember it - it doesn't immediately fade into obscurity in my mind, as most of the books I read do; I rarely bother to write a review. I enjoyed this author's imagination and I'm hoping the writing improves with experience and editing; I will seek out the sequel when it is published.
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