Saturday, December 08, 2007

REVIEW: 'Of Angelic Blood and Other Tales' by Philip D. Collins

Title: Of Angelic Blood and Other Tales
Author: Philip D. Collins
Price: $ 10.59
Genre: Christian Speculative Fiction
ISBN: 978-0615149219
Publisher: Bards and Sages
Point of Sale: Amazon

Initially, when I read the first sentence, I was impressed and thankful that I might read something thought-provoking and written above the eighth-grade reading level...but aside from the intelligent use of language, the tales, if you could call them that, left me rather unaffected.

The first titled 'Angelic Blood' begins with our protagonist, a middle-class character full of the stereotypical male angst. A self-proclaimed nerd who seems to have trouble relating to the world and also relating to girls. Well, the flush I felt with the first sentence has now worn off. But at least this tragic angst-filled young man doesn’t go the route of so many others with a Bukowskiesque damn society self-destructive lifestyle. No, he is a college student, fairly well off, with your, again, typical family struggles and even more typical meeting the right girl issues. Then he meets Sophia, the woman of his dreams, sent down from the heavens to save him. She is so perfect that he writes an endless laundry list of the characteristics that make her so perfect – oh and did I mention that she actually is an Angel. But the author spends more time characterizing her ad infinitim than he does actually engaging her in the story.

I am a pernicious ole coot when it comes to clichés, and this one sent me spiralling into that void of literary despair. This story has them all, from desperate angsty male saved by the perfect, beautiful, angelic ideal of a woman, who is yet again a stranger in a strange land prone to her own self-loathing, to paradigms and the subsequent shifting of, to the fact that ‘keep it simple stupid’ is even written verbatim as a character trait, not to mention other equally trite phrases such as ‘nine out of ten customers can’t tell the difference.’ Oh my.

This book suffers from many technical, mechanical, grammatical, and editing flaws. In fact, it doesn’t seem as if this book had much editing done to it at all. Story construction in Angelic Blood is poor. Many parts are written as if the author were giving a dissertation on the ills of society and its impending downfall, even quoting other learned people to back up his suppositions and opinions. If this were a book of Sociological essays, I would have been impressed and enjoyed it immensely. But it’s not a book of essays. What happens here is that the actual tale is diminished and of very low impact. There is a lot of swooning melodrama but no suspense or engaging conflict to hold your attention. What little conflict there is is sadly predictable. The term-paper like sequences destroy the poetic flow of the story. There is a lot of info dumping. The dialog is flat and poorly constructed. When characters start blushing and grinning the dialog, I have to scratch my head. There is nothing wrong with using the word ‘said’ with a smile or a grin. Dialog is spoken, so if you don’t like to use ‘said’ too much, then find another proper conversational verb. Not to mention the disjointed internal conflict scenes, which are entirely written in italics and seem to be thrown in willy-nilly to add depth to a rather preachy main character: as if to say, I know he is a cheeky preachy bastard, but he contemplates suicide so please feel sorry for him. Even the degrading and self-loathing internal voice stirs no pity in me. Again, more outworn cliché. At best, everything about this tale is average: stale story, stale principles, and an equally stale worldview; we have read a litany of these stories already. There really is no new voice here.

The second story ‘Night of the Raven’ I liked much more. The theme and theorem was eloquently weaved into the story so as not to overpower it. The messages were clear and concise; although, some might disagree with the opinions of the work, and some might find them radical and disturbing. The world is disturbing. Here we have, through a sci-fi theme, the dissection of social politics – fascism and social isolationism. And the metaphorical references were spot on. ‘I had no Lenore’ – good stuff. The plotline is intense, the imagery has wonderful depth, and the message is littered with the bullet holes of truth.

A Voice we have yet another angsty ill-in-his-own-skin male whining story of the idealized perfect woman, and yet again we have the protagonist taking much deserved shots at the stereotypical pop culture definition of what a woman should be. I like that, but the tone makes the main character Alec seem a little pathetic, as if he almost deliberately chastises that which he cannot have, defining all beautiful women who refused to give him the time of day as nasty, surgically-enhanced brainless harlots. They very well may be or maybe not. Despite that and again the cliché theme, the story structure is good and leaves us with an unexpected hopeless ending. Life isn’t always beautiful, and happy endings are rare.

The only thing that saved it for me and kept me reading this book was that it was written so intelligently, and there were some truly inspiring poetic and thought provoking lines. Forgiving the endless typos and editing issues, there are profoundly relevant messages and themes here, timeless messages; too bad they are sucked into the mire and come off a bit overtly preachy.

This author has the skill for brilliant essay writing. But when it comes to the mechanics and specialized techniques of story construction, a trip back to the editing room is warranted, more so in the first story than in the later ones.

7/10 For average content...clichés just do me in.
5/10 For editing and mechanics.

Reviewed by Cheryl Anne Gardner: Cheryl Anne Gardner, author of four novellas, is an Executive Assistant by day, an avid reader, and an independent reviewer with Podpeople.blogspot and Amazon where she blogs regularly on AmazonConnect. She is an advocate for independent film, music, and books, and when at all possible, prefers to read and review out of the mainstream Indie published works, foreign translations, and a bit of philosophy. She lives with her husband and two ferrets on the East Coast, USA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bitter medicine brings the best relief. Good reviewer gets better. All life’s a cliché.