Kenneth A. Mugi's Reviews > Near Death

Near Death by Richard C. Hale
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May 23, 12

bookshelves: ebooks, independent, paranormal, thriller
Read from May 19 to 23, 2012

REASON FOR BOOK CHOICE

Due to the lack of eBook reviewers on the Internet and the difficulty it is for a new author to gain traction in the market place, I'm trying to focus my reviews strictly on this area. It also helps that e-books are generally a lot cheaper than their physical counterparts (for various reasons) and occasionally can be picked up for a dollar. This fact really helps keep my reviewing and entertainment budget at reasonable levels.

However, in saying that, I actually found this novel because Richard Hale is located in my Twitter feed. A while ago he followed me, I followed him back (as you do) and I started seeing the Tweets promoting his book. The countless number of them.

I know that self-promotion is a big thing in this industry (especially when you start out) but it feels like his tweets are always about the book(s) he just wrote and how great it would be if you bought the novel(s). In fact, it appears that Richard Hale has five or six similarly formatted tweets about his novel that he sends out on a regular basis. I respect the fact that he wants to write for a living and that he's been active about it, but sometimes I think Richard Hale goes a bit too far pushing that on Twitter.

Still, I picked up his book, Near Death, because I thought someone with that kind of passion deserves a chance. So maybe it's working. I don't know.

COVER

I own the Kindle version of Near Death and it's cover isn't that great. It's poorly formatted and doesn't take up the whole screen, and there's something in the image that I cannot make out when looking at the grey scale screen. When you load up the high definition colour version, it's actually a woman's face overlooking the city. I just thought it was an orb of light or a thumbprint.

I'm not sure what the generic city image on the bottom of the cover means. Why is the woman looking over the city? What does this mean about the characters? I don't know. Even in the high definition version for the cover (with colour) it feels artificial and poorly placed.

I do like the tag line, 'It's 3:30am. What are you dreaming?' I think that's pretty inspired. Probably not witty enough to make me pick up the book on the basis of it alone, but still well written and engaging.

BOOK LAYOUT

I found the book layout odd. It starts straight into the novel and I think that was a little frustrating. I'm used to reading the credits, acknowledgments, introduction and so on. I found jumping straight in a jarring experience. It's very confronting and not at all a normal experience of how we read (even for printed books). Personally, I think the acknowledgments can be a way to showcase the writer's skill with the written word. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has an incredible thank you section that has made me long for more writers to craft their appreciation notes more carefully.

Near Death has no TOC (Table of Contents). To me, that's quite annoying. Yes, the Kindle has an auto-save feature but that shouldn't replace the ability for a reader to skim through the novel and show off great parts to their friends. It is especially pertinent when you consider that the book is over 50 chapters long. That's a lot of space to navigate with chapter clicks.

I also found some of the formatting of book introductions a little strange. They were too far down the page for the Kindle and the section headings took me out of the experience. I know that Kindle's HTML coding can screw up even the best formatted book (especially if a chapter is too long) but this wasn't an HTML oddity. It was a deliberate formatting decision and having 80% of the Kindle page wasted on empty space became even more frustrating as the chapters got shorter and shorter.

Price wise, I paid $0.99 for Near Death. A really ridiculous price for any full length novel and the work that goes into them. It's listed at $11.53 and discounted to $0.99. I think $11.53 is way too steep for a Kindle version. Richard Hale's charging the exact same amount for a printed book but they are two completely different mediums. So I'm glad that it is discounted, but sad that Richard Hale's asking price does not take into account the different production costs.

STORY

The story is a solid entry into the supernatural thriller genre. It starts out with an attack on a military base and ends with a dramatic chase sequence across America. There's an evil terrorist, a gorgeous woman, a best friend and a few crazy dreams in-between.

It has a three part structure with a 'Part One', 'Part Two' and 'Part Three' breaking them up. I don't why Richard Hale felt he had to break up the novel with these three sections. The story itself is quite linear and has no real narrative break from one section to another. The section headings don't give away any more of the story and they feel very frivolous and non-essential.

I found the ending of the story a little over-written. It's like Richard Hale was trying to tie up all the lose ends of the novel, yet still keep it open for a sequel. I think it ended three or four times and I didn't need that. The minor character arcs didn't need to be resolved and the actual last page was a little frustrating. I know sequels are awesome (for the author's pocket book), but I don't believe you should announce they are coming because it makes the previous ending a non-ending. Why did you even write the other ending when that's not actually the ending?

Overall though, the story's pretty decent and standard fare for the men's action genre.

CHARACTERS

This is my big sticking point. I felt all the characters were pretty artificial and filling genre specific roles. Jake Townsend did not feel like a person to me. He felt like an imaginary human who happens to only exist inside of a novel. I didn't find him interesting and didn't really care about his problems because he just seemed to handle them in a completely non-human way. The writer dictated it, and therefore he did.

I think the tragic part of this book is that I spent a lot of time laughing and sighing at the characters through the novel. There's a romance which happens like a thunderclap and ends up in a wildly descriptive sex scene that lasts for ten pages. Then they promise (in very awkward and precise English) to not be serious about intimacy before falling in love three days later. During this time they have a lot of sex.

There's a platonic friendship between Jake and Terri that gets stretched well beyond breaking point. It's written in a way I would have imagined women reacting to my awesomeness (and desires) at 18 or 19. I think the characters get confused because they act like stock standard heroes, but then we are told by the author they have real emotions. But they don't have real emotions, the emotions are just words on a page that mean nothing because the character's actions give no weight to the phrase used.

At the end, Jake turns into action hero man. No. I mean, no. I can believe Jake's 'no-one should die' shtick or his 'I must kill to save my beloved', but not both. He jumps between the two whilst the writer does not explain why Jake can use a gun. I know that America is full of gun lovers and my friends really appreciate their awesome shotguns, but I couldn't fire a glock. Why would a meek and mild scientist be able to?

So, I feel the characters are forced, trite and painful. Their dialogue borders on the ridiculous and when it is combined with an attempt at sincerity, it would force me to wince and sigh.

WRITING

After reading Richard Hale's Near Death, I actually went back and changed my review of Switched from two to three stars on Goodreads. Richard Hale is writing in my genre. This was my bread and butter as a kid. Action, sex and chiseled men. This was what I looked for when I trolled the bookstores from 16 - 20.

Unfortunately, I found it clunky as hell. I struggled reading the book from page to page and line to line. The sentences are short, nasty and use cliched phrases. A lot of the description sentences I would have sworn I had read somewhere else. And it just drove me nuts.

I mentioned the dialogue previously, but it's too clean. The dialogue is too grammatically correct and too standard for each person. Everyone seems to know what the next person's going to say and they are just speaking their lines of dialogue on an empty stage. When characters talk, my mind would flit somewhere else. I thought about my work colleagues, my friends, my enemies and how they spoke. No-one I know speaks like they do in the book. Dialogue is ugly and full grammar errors.

Grammatically, it's fine. I found one issue with an 'Its' but that was all. If I was teaching English, I would use this book as a good example of how perfect grammar structures can put a wall between you and the reader. It make take no risks, but it fails to communicate what the writer wants to say as well.

CONCLUSION

Bottom line, is it worth 99 cents? Is it worth $11.53? Amazon says 'Yes' with a 5 star rating and 24 reviews. I would say, probably not. If you have nothing better to read, enjoy men's genre fiction, looking for something cheap and don't want to branch out into the classics, then this is probably a good purchase at 99 cents. At $11.53, no way. It's not worth that at all.

I found the characters contrite, the story plot barely survivable (until the real ending ruined it completely), the writing frustrating, and the book's production values lacking the basics. I made it through the book because I made a promise to myself to finish all books I intend to review, but if I hadn't then I would stopped reading this at around the first scene.
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