Friday, March 31, 2006
'RealmShift' by Alan Baxter
Reviewed by Ed Kane
TITLE - RealmShift
AUTHOR - Alan Baxter
PRICE - $15.00 (through Lulu.com)
GENRE - Contemporary fantasy/dark fantasy
ISBN - 1-4116-6862-6
PUBLISHER - Alan Baxter, www.lulu.com
POINT OF SALE - www.lulu.com/alanbaxter
RealmShift has a strong foundation in an unusually coherent fantasy cosmology in which humans, gods and those in between are embroiled in each others' schemes. Upon this Alan Baxter has constructed a sound, logical plot and four main characters with clear motives and identity. The story spends most of its rather slow opening stages with Isiah, a preternatural being whose role in the cosmic 'balance' is only gradually revealed. Carlos, a brutal mercenary, and Samuel an unwilling pawn also have roles to play and journalist, Katherine, is placed in the middle of their schemes. Deep in the jungle Katherine seeks a mysterious crystal skull but it is dangerous men, whom she does not even know exist, that will ultimately determine her fate.
This is a substantial dark fantasy novel written in clear, effective prose. I was impressed with all of the technical aspects from the book which was well edited and seamlessly constructed with a plot that picks up speed slowly but then barrels towards its conclusion.
My greatest complaint is that there are several features that led me to read the story dispassionately, without great involvement with the otherwise convincing characters. The story started slowly with Isiah and only after dozens of pages is the context of his actions properly explained, and the other crucial characters introduced. Most tellingly there are no strong relationships in the story--each important character bounces off incidental supporting characters, co-operates with others for only the most ruthless reasons and pursues his or her goal essentially as a loner until the last third of the book. Most vivid moments in the story for me were in the few recurring meetings such as between Isiah and the 'balance' and with the informally addressed angel 'Gabe', and Katherine almost saying 'I love you' to the boyfriend the reader is never shown.
It is on the closing chapters that the reader is rewarded in the interactions of Isiah, Gabriel and Samuel, and Katherine with her traveling companion Thomas, which we are now fully equipped to understand--and a clear dénouement where all their efforts will protect the cosmic Balance, or unravel it. The final scene, that 460 pages have led inexorably towards, cannot help but be a little anti-climactic.
Alan Baxter shows glimmers of unusual talent in his world building and prose style. However RealmShift bears all the hallmarks of a ‘director’s cut’ and future works would benefit from rather more forceful editing for pace and length.
AVERAGE RATING: 8.5