Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review:Xenolith (The Convergence) by A. Sparrow

Xenolith (The Convergence) by A. Sparrow

I loved this book. Of course one thing to love is that it's free. It really would be worth paying for.
(Has some issues but I wouldn't downgrade my stars for those. It has a lot going for it.)

This book reminded me -at the beginning- of Atlantida by Pierre Benoit and because of that it also parallels She By Henry Rider Haggard. These are two old classics that are written in the old high tradition of narrative. You don't see books like that that much today. There is an attention to detail of the worlds that the characters travel through in this book. Along with many instances of there being a desperate desolation in the interaction of character to environment.

The story starts with Frank being bound and gagged and blindfolded by mysterious band of people in Belize; where he's visiting the site of ancient ruins where his wife and a friend and their guide disappeared twenty years ago. This digresses into a flashback of the trip out and that back-flashes into the time of the actual events twenty years ago. Frank is a Doctor who seems to be some kind of mission Doctor who flits across the world in some of the most dangerous and impoverished zones around. His wife Liz is an absolute saint just for putting up with it all. Liz loves archeology. When the local pastor offers to take them out to see some ruins that have interesting aspects and have never been worked by other archeologist; she jumps at the chance. Unfortunately Frank has medical emergencies that day and can't go along. So, the boat man, the guide, the pastor and the wife head out. The boatman is the only who will return.

There's a second story being told parallel to this story about a group of somewhat primitive yet well organized individuals fighting a war that seems to be extending across what might be parallel universes. At the beginning it looks as though the group we follow might be the only ones who use the special stones that open the convergences. Part of what this narrative is taking place at this time that the enemy may be acquiring the ability to breach into the different worlds.

One of the many worlds is Ur or Earth, Franks home. And Frank might have been abducted by one of the first group, who are trying to guard their secret. Tezhay, the man who has taken Frank to a different world may be one known as a Traveler. Previously a special group known as the Philosophers had held the stones and kept the xenoliths secret. When war struck -in order to survive men like the Travelers were allowed to learn to go through the convergences into other worlds to escape elude and sometimes ambush the enemy. But, the enemy is still winning. Their world is dangerous, especially for someone like Frank who has a bad heart after all these years.

Frank at first doesn't believe that he's in a different world. Not until he experiences it first hand. After which, he starts to believe that his Liz might be alive and possibly somewhere on this world. This part is executed excellently as Frank vacillates from wanting to stay to wanting to escape back to Earth. It hardly looks like he will survive long if he stays.

Conversely the warriors from the war zone are trapped on Earth when the stone they need to use to leave is broken. Furthermore events evolve that present the possibility of the horror that someone has betrayed them and the enemy now has at least one of the stones to the convergence they are at.

This story has some awesomely good world building and is well paced while full of conflict and action. There's a lot of political intrigue and betrayal going on. And there's the lover's quest story that seems all to real and sometimes hopeless. I can't give A. Sparrow enough praise for this book.

That much said I do have some issues with the need for editing. This goes well beyond grammar and spelling. Those can easily be overlooked. There are some consistency issues of which I'll point out two. They create enough confusion to be frustrating.
"Flower mean they sell drink," said Tezhay. "You thirsty?"
"Sure," said Tezhay). "As long as it's clean and doesn't have any dead toads in it."
"No worry," said Tezhay. "Is just beer, from honey."
A. Sparrow. Xenolith (Kindle Locations 6442-6445). A. Sparrow.[/quote]

"Sure," said Tezhay (should be frank talking) . "As long as it's clean and doesn't have any dead toads in it."
I say this because Tezhay does not use contractions nor speak this clearly and it only makes sense if Frank said this.

[quote] Canu stepped over Vul as he squirmed among the tarps. "I'm going out to relieve Pari," said Canu. "Tell Aret I say hello.""
"Canu?" Vul bellowed, as if calling across a vast cavern. "What are you doing here?"
"Don't shout. You'll wake Vul. He's trying to sleep."
"But, " Vul popped up, eyes flashing open. "Where , where did she go?" He looked confused, and frantic.
A. Sparrow. Xenolith (Kindle Locations 6718-6722). A. Sparrow.[/quote]

This did not make sense Canu would not be telling Vul to be quiet so as not to wake himself. At least in this context I couldn't even make it into a sly jest.

I also have a minor quibble about the usage of some words.
It's not that I haven't seen these words used before-They in fact are perhaps poetic words and in that they would be delightful inclusions if the entire text had many more such gems. The fact that they show up once or twice -stranded alone- makes little sense.

That's not the issue though

One word in question is at end of chapter 53 susurrus (this is the correct spelling) the spelling is wrong in the text.

I have no idea if in some circles this word is used every day. I only know that it would be the one explanation as to why someone would use this word and not bother to check up on the spelling. This is the third novel I've read this year using this same word and the second novel to misspell it. The third book used a variation and actually spelled it correctly.

If I use a word like this- whether as a poetic note or perhaps a word that says something that I could only otherwise say in five words or more - I would still take the time to look it up. Especially if I had even the smallest suspicion I could be spelling it incorrectly. Even so usually another set of eyes will pick it up quickly.
I would also check the meaning and try to decide if I want my less learned readers to learn this word with the meaning I'm trying to convey. Often I even check to be sure I'm not using it as a colloquialism. Either way; while I'm there I make sure I get the spelling correct.

I do not have a fear of new words but its nice if the definition in the kindle would be at least helpful. And it would be much better if the word could be found by the kindle dictionary- which won't happen if it's misspelled. Causing the reader to try to guess the spelling of a word they are now forced to look up in the dictionary.

Anyone that like the classics and who like Fantasy and Science Fiction and adventure with lots of archery and sword battles will love this story. For some it may take a few pages to get into the story. The time it takes to build an idea of the conditions in Belize and the character's feelings about it all at the time consumes a large volume of the beginning.

I enjoyed it all- it's well worth the read even having to get around a few rough spots.

J.L. Dobias

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