Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Without Bloodshed

Author: Mathew Graybosch
Genre: Fantasy/Scifi/Action
Book Rating: 7.5
Personal Rating: 7.5

This book was definitely a roller-coaster ride read for me.  The characters personalities where well defined.  There is awesome modern technology.  And it had a healthy helping of steam. It was obvious that the author put a lot of thought into plotting out a very detailed and well crafted plot.  There was more than enough to love about this book, however, the story doesn't end here.  

Lets start of with what I loved.  The characters.  Especially the women characters.  Strong, bold determined and kickass.  That's just the way women should be in books.  These women did not need a superman to come in and swoop them away like the helpless stereotypes that they clearly are not in this book.  The men were equally as entertaining.  Not just your typical kill first and ask questions later kind of heroes.  Everyone had a certain depth that made me care about each one of them to a degree if not entirely.  

The story follows the main character, Morgan Stormrider, through a series of events we are lead to believe are tests to see if he can wield a weapon against the enemy.  He plays in a band, points for that cause I love music, is in love with the keyboardist, Bradleigh, and just recently broke up with the lead singer and violinist.  Christabel.  Bradleigh is being framed for the murder of Christabel, which is the start of the beginning of the book and a long series of tests.
The premise of the book is fine within itself, but ultimately I felt like I needed more.  I came out of this book with no clear idea of who the enemy was.  Why was he imprisoned in the first place.  And what's with this need to test someone to the brink of crazy.  Crazy enough that they might even kill the tester.  I just couldn't seem to go along for the ride.  

I ended what I thought was going to be a brilliant read a little underwhelmed.  And had no idea why.  I just felt I was completely missing something.  After cruising some other reviews a reread was in order.  I pulled up Google and quite literally researched my way through the novel.  Here are some findings.  One of the main characters name is Elizabeth Bathory, very close to Erzsebet Bathory the Hungarian female serial killer, who allegedly bathed in the blood of her countless little girl victoms.  Bathory, also happens to be the name of a metal band who also named themselves after the real Bathory.  Then to top it of the bathory in the novel, had a deal centuries ago, to raise children form her group affairs sired by other Hungarians and none other than, Ferenc Nadasdys is the one to break said tradition.  Who of course is the real Bathory's husband in history.  Just too close to facts for a fiction novel for me.  And there are other Metal and Rock band names as character names.  

To continue with Bathory her Real name, in the book, is Astoreth, or Astarte which is the goddess of divinity.  So that's metal, real history and mythology, all rapped up into a character who specialises in manipulating peoples desires by scientific magic, which doesn't seem to have much to do with all the things associated with her name.  Her sister also has a mythological real name.  

The main AI system Sephiroth, final fantasy game character.  It seems cool but I always thought the game and the movie when I saw it and it succeeded in pulling me out the story every time.  Then during Bradeleigh's interrogation the officer who tried to manhandle her was named 'thistlewood'.  He made a habit of abusing his arrests. Thomas Thistlewood was a land and slave owner in Jamaica who of course also did some not so awesome things to his his slaves during his lifetime.  

This book has so much of this stuff breathing through it's pages that the more I researched the more I felt the story wasn't really about the plot but how much little anecdotes and hidden things are in here for the reader to go 'whoa that was cool'.  Do they give complexity and detail to the story?  Yes.  Do they move it along.  Not really.  They're just really cool factoids.

I, upon second read, felt as if this novel was designed as a brilliant easter egg hunt to see what nifty little points can be hidden in the name of the characters.  And in all sorts of other places that would take too much time to detail in this review.  This left me with the feeling of a rabbit in a whole full of carrots that are distracting me from digging, in this sense digging would be following the plot.  

Following the plot I found my biggest issue was the enemy.  Yes mass genocide is bad (oh and for the record the enemy has a mythological name as well that can mean many gods or used to define the one main god and his name is also used in gaming.  More factoid fodder for you reading this.  But I digress.)  But what did he or she do specifically to be imprisoned in the first place.  What is it that you don't want him to repeat should he escape.  What are the specifics of the enemies crime? And how in all of creation did a weapon that could kill an immortal get created by people who can't use it.   Why was an entire race was created to test to see if they could wield the weapon in hopes of destroying the enemy; and did this happen before or after they knew the spells keeping him trapped were failing?  Maybe all these answers where in the book.  If I missed them then I'm just stupid.  If they didn't get more than a few lines of detail, not enough.  If I don't understand my villain or the means and reasons for destroying them, there is no point in the quest.

My lack of clarity of villain aside, the plot sorta made sense.  In order for stormrider to prove himself innocent he must bring in the traitor without bloodshed.  Fair enough.  However.  The premise of this test set upon him is to release his rage.  The person testing him, Imaginos (metalband album number eleven of a rock band.  No idea if it has as much not-so-necessary connections as Bathory, but it is rather cool in the fact that I don't think it does.), clearly states he needs unbridled rage and not tamed obedience.  The need to not kill actually seems to have the opposite effect.  Morgan thinks more, considers more, doesn't kill first and ask questions later.  To cap that off he started off the novel already questioning his role as an 'assassin for justice' so forcing him not to kill didn't help.  Having pent up anxiety ultimately forced him to learn to control such anger.  Which he seems to do all to well through the entire novel for a bloodthirsty legal assassin anyway.  This quest for non-bloodshed seemed contradictory as it aimed more tame instead of push him to the limit of his anger and beyond, if you want rage let him grow into an uncontrollable rage.  I felt he started of cool and collected, good at holding in his rage, and ended up the same.  So Imaginos' shock at the end that Morgan didn't attack him in a fit of anger seemed odd.  Why would he, after displaying such control the whole time.

Another thing was this CPMD gene.  I have a vague physical description of what it does to a person but that's about it.  What causes it, why is it important, I'm fairly certain it is important.  And what was the cover up.  Apparently to describe the phenomenon, a doctor Desdinova (mytholgy, known as the lonely god and it's a metal band name.  A lot of love for mythology which is pretty awesome.) To continue, Desdinova made up a story.  But why?  I assumed they were the children of the immortals, which is probably why they are called Deva's (a bit of mythology again) but what was the lie.  If how they came into existence is for the next instalment, okay.  I'm all for holding somethings in your back-pocket for the future.  But at the very least the lie that was given to explain this species should be in this book.  This would successfully give the reader something but ultimately still be holding the big guns for the next book.

Then there is the fact that Morgan, is one of the species created to wield said weapon which can destroy immortals, Asura (too much info to explain.  Lets just say mythology again).  He doesn't know what he is.  That's perfect.  But at the end when one of his victims who survived, calls him brother and explains that they were created to be tested for something I'm thinking finally some depth happening here, and pft.  Nothing.  Even already knowing he's being tested the truth of his origins doesn't intrigue Morgan at all.  When Morgan sees him again at the end of the book it's like all this new information doesn't exists.  You get told you're not human you were created and designed to be tested.  You don't kill and destroy the person giving you the information and then fail to get more details upon the second visit.  It just doesn't add up.  Any normal person would've drilled for details, even if only to prove themselves right and the other person crazy.  Morgan seemed to quite literally carry on through the novel as if this information, albeit only in about two or three sentences, was never given.  No pondering or anything.  Just business as usual.

And lastly, in the beginning of the book it's clearly stated that, Astoreth, is to pretend to be Imaginos' nemesis, and help unleash this rage in Morgan.  So at the end when they are pondering why she's helping them or if she's had some change of heart, it kind of falls flat.  I already know from in the first pages she's just playing her part.  I can't go along for the ride of the fact that she might actually care because it's her role to act like she cares.  If I didn't know, just like the characters, then I'd be more emotionally invested to follow this line of thought with them.  As such it's just more information.  This book started to feel more like a 1 plus 1 equals two kind of read.  All the things I thought I was missing I could actually Google and find.  They weren't seriously forward moving plot devices.

I wanted more stuff like the cool use of the AI's and actual descriptions of the mode of travel besides just telling me how they travel, words like suborbital and so on.  It's the 2100's I want to know what the mode of travel looks like and how fast it is. Take me into the world of the mind of the author. I know it takes minutes because you can't get from London to Japan as fast as they do, but that's only because I'm not an idiot that I can figure it out.  I love that when magic is used it's described in scientific terms because it fits the fact that this is scifi.  The scene of the band break up was a very good character scene, although sadly it also helped me see Morgan as less rageful than his assassin persona was supposed to make me believe.  All the supposed love interests that were almost on the verge of full development but not quite.  I love that Morgan is in a band, and that it's a metal band because it's not typical.  And the humor, was great.  Unfortunately all of this stuff hit the 'just enough information for you to know and that's it' box.  Not quite organic enough for me to melt my laptop if one of them died.  I would just assume it obviously happened for a plot reason and was a necessity and shrug it off.  Which is what I did at the end of the novel with the supposed shocking ending.  My first thought was 'not surprised."  It's obviously meant to shock me.  Entice me to want more.  And it's typically what you do at the end of a first in a series.  Only difference is that this one just made too much sense to me.  I could see it happening in this kind of novel.

So my overall experience with this novel was that I did love the characters, but thought they didn't have enough arch for me.  I loved the quirky details and humor of the novel.  Especially from Clair and Cohen.  Easily my two favorite characters.  Just more than too much fun to read they were.  But it just seemed to float by.  Not great, but far from awful.  I just found that it was swimming with too much anecdotes that were a combination of metal references, gaming references, mythology and history factoids which placed the characters actions (where mythology and history are concerned) a little too close to the meanings of their names for my liking. I just couldn't focus on the plot with all this information swimming in my brain.  I can't deny the coolness and awesomeness of all of this.  It took great thought and planning to do it.  And a level of intelligence I clearly do not have.  But reading because it's 'cool' has never been on my motivation to read list.

Would I recommend this book.  Yes.  Though it was not for me.  If you like hunting for the little quirks and interesting facts hidden inside books, especially if they are along the lines of rock, metal and mytholgy, sprinkled with a bit of gaming then this book is for you.  The action is pretty badass as well.  This book is, if a book can be, the epitome of cool because of these things.  It would be the popular kid if it were a human being.  Beyond it just being pure awesome, it had shitloads of potential but just seemed more concerned with the hidden anecdotes then what was actually going on in the novel.

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