Saturday 18 June 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Apostates Book Three: Lake of Fire by Lars Teeney

In a dystopian future where virtually everyone has neural implants, the corrupt remnants of the U.S. Federal government collude with big business to manipulate the masses. Individual minds can be overrun without warning by the Trinity to become violent and genocidal religious zealots known as Acolytes. Ragtag bands of survivors, ancient tribes and makeshift local principalities join forces in North America to resist this physical and virtual onslaught as well as a coinciding invasion by revenge-driven Chinese forces. But haunting visions, horrific nightmares and personal struggles plague the leadership, clouding their judgement, threatening their sanity and jeopardizing their very existence.

Lake of Fire is the third and final book of the Apostates saga. The story is complex, weaving together multiple characters who, at first blush, seem unrelated. Yet, they share a common history in having survived the natural and man-made disasters detailed in the previous books.

Teeney captures a vivid post-apocalyptic world where nothing is what it seems and circumstances change without warning. The extensive cast of players keeps the reader guessing as to what is really happening and who is behind the homicidal and seemingly demonic possessions of ordinary people. It is a compelling story, chock full of creative ideas and images. The end reveal is a shocker.

However, largely editorial issues let the story down. Frequently the language seems stilted, mechanical and unnatural given the circumstances in which the characters find themselves. For example, a love scene (where the lovers' movement is unromantically likened to that of an oil well pump) comes across as clinical rather than affectionate; cold rather than warm--even though the reader is told that the characters involved feel otherwise. This tendency to "tell" rather than "show" keeps the reader at arm's length, inhibiting his/her emotional engagement with the story, particularly in the action scenes (e.g. "(They) watched in awe as Jaspar's tank force smashed into the wall..."). This, coupled with the sheer number of characters and their minimal development, makes it difficult to stay immersed. Word repetition, extensive passive voice, grammatical errors, typos and punctuation mistakes also crack the illusion.

In total, with redrafting, Lake of Fire has great potential to be a breathless and exhilarating ride, packed with high drama. As is, it is simply an interesting read.

3 of 5 Stars

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