Call me a bad English major, but I love having a Kindle. I like that I can access many classic books for free. I like how I can easily slip it in my purse when I go out, without making it bulky or heavy. I like that I can use amazon giftcards for something I don’t have to pay shipping on or wait for. It’s just pretty convenient. Well, recently, I’ve gotten into looking for the whole free ebook thing and have downloaded a couple titles: The Book of Deacon and Sara’s Game. I guess if you want a really short review of them it’s “you get what you pay for,” but I’ll go into more details below.
The Book of Deacon – If a friend of mine had emailed me this book is word document format and said they wrote it in their free time, I would have been impressed. It’s a good length, has a fairly sizable cast of characters, and while not all of the places/settings in the book are compelling, it does have some interesting locations described in vivid way. It’s central premise is a fairly standard fantasy one (people discovering an affinity for magic, getting special powers etc) but if you read fantasy, it’s not always a big issue if the main things that happen are common in the genre. The two main issues I had with it are the characters and the way the narrative is set up. The characters seem one-dimensional, as if each one has a main character trait that every interaction with them just kind of proves over and over again – they don’t really have nuance or change and speak with a weird formality. I think Deacon was my favorite character in the book, because I have a soft spot for cute enthusiastic nerds and the formal dialogue style worked well for his character. The main character, Myranda (also, what’s up with her name?) persistently annoyed me by getting knocked unconscious at the end of waaaay too many chapters. My other issue was with the pacing of the book. It’s called The Book of Deacon, but Deacon doesn’t appear until halfway through. The first half of the book is mostly Myranda being confused or unable to shut up about the fact that she doesn’t support the war, while we have to wait until the second half to meet the more interesting characters and see her do interesting magic instead of just walking from place to place. Overall, while many parts of it were annoying, it was still somewhat of an enjoyable read – kind of like hanging out with a friend who says stupid things but you like them anyways.
Sara’s Game – When I got the books, I had planned on doing a double review for the blog and that’s legitimately the only reason I finished this “thriller.” So, you’re welcome- I did it for you, dear readers. While the basic premise of the book is interesting – the main character works for a video game company, her children are kidnapped, and she has to play a “game” to save them – the rest just falls to pieces. The author doesn’t seem to know much about women or about marketing which makes his choice of writing a book about a woman who works in marketing a little confusing. As Sara tries to save her children, we’re treated to her crying irrationally in a traffic jam, worrying about her weight/being out of shape, thinking about salad, judging her assistant’s frumpy clothes, wondering if her husband was having an affair, and many other things that human beings with complex personalities do. Also, she’s a marketing executive at the game company but seems to make most of the decisions about the content of the games, which I don’t think it how it works? Also, the whole game motif falls on its face. The levels are kind of weird and boring and the narrator heavy-handedly points out one individual as the culprit when it was obvious for the majority of the book who it really was. The final thing that bugged me about the book was the way it would make video game references and then over-explain them. If you’re writing for people who like video games, they’ll get “your princess is in another castle” mention. If you’re not, well, then the readers probably won’t care, even if you explain it. (EDIT: I recently received an email saying that this book has a new version for download with “significant editorial changes.” I don’t know what the changes are or how they might impact some of my criticism.)
So yeah, I’d kind of recommend The Book of Deacon if you’re looking for a relaxing book to read in the bathtub or before bed. As for Sara’s Game, well, just don’t bother.