Tony's Reviews > Zack's Choice

Zack's Choice by Harry E. Gilleland Jr.
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did not like it
bookshelves: 2014, crime-thriller-mystery, reviewed, fiction

“You, a highly intelligent student at Yale University and the son of two well-respected attorneys, one of whom is a federal judge, claim you were persuaded to commit a criminal act of this magnitude within a few days of meeting this young woman? Do you really expect me to buy that? Just how dumb do you think I am?”

Not as dumb as the author expects us to be, it seems. The plot repeatedly stretches credulity well beyond breaking point, without offering even the flimsiest of lifelines to readers willing to suspect disbelief. At least three times the central character, when pressed on how he could possibly have done something quite so stupid, replies with a "I guess you had to be there". But we were there, and it didn't help. The author's job is to show us how it happened — what caused Zack to make his fateful decisions. But instead all we get is a bland “I’ve thought it over. As crazy as it sounds, I’m going to help you”, that would have made me throw the book across the room had I not been reading an electronic copy on my laptop.

The book is full of jarring "Tell, Don't Show" moments like this. We're lazily informed, for example, that “Zack somehow felt responsible for the lad’s safety and well-being”, so as set up what happens next — but why? We've no background at this point as to who Zack is (we're only on the second page of the book), or why he'd feel the least bit responsible for a hitch-hiker he'd only just met that afternoon, especially when they'd done nothing but ride in silence for a few hours. Instead the author just decrees it so, and we need to meekly follow along. And because of this it's never quite clear who we're meant to root for — is Zach our hero, who needs to overcome some initial poor choices, or an idiot who deserves everything he gets?

For a self-published book the the basics of spelling/grammar etc are surprisingly good with refreshingly few typos — the author either has excellent English skills, or used a good copy-editor (and how I wish that weren't so surprising these days!), but even aside from the major plot issues, the book also needs a much more substantive edit. The writing is quite clumsy at times, with some appallingly bad info-dumps (the Wikipedia-style "Introduction to Split" is especially noteworthy), and the dialogue is particularly wooden, in a manner that often gets in the way of the plot (When Zack repeatedly speaks to his parents in such a stilted manner is it meant to reveal something about the nature of their relationship? Or is it just bad writing?)

With some heavy work this could possibly be transformed into a passable comedy caper, but for now it's best avoided.

[review copy provided by author]
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Reading Progress

March 10, 2014 – Started Reading
March 10, 2014 – Shelved
March 10, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014
March 10, 2014 – Shelved as: crime-thriller-mystery
March 10, 2014 – Finished Reading
September 9, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
December 29, 2014 – Shelved as: fiction

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