May 31st, 2012 14:27 EST
BOOK REVIEW: The Silver by RL Harlan
MY RATING: ** (out of * * * *)
BRIEF SYNOPSIS (spoiler free): A woman is granted what seems to be magical abilities, in preparation for a coming time of crisis. Abilities that will prove to be her family`s legacy.
PROS: The basic story, though flawed and awkwardly composed, is interesting and conceptually solid. I especially like how the magical aspects are normalized and secondary-- kept in the background as a B Plot within what is primarily an old school detective story.
At first glance, I was perturbed by the crudeness of language. Not vulgar or profane (although there is minor profanity), but very simplistic and written at maybe a third grade level.
But then during chapter 3, I realized "the language, style and tone resemble the kind used for stories in pulp magazine up until the `60s. Not only in the aesthetic style, but the characters` Gee Whiz mannerisms and speech are indicative of fiction from 1950. If this effect or approach was intentional, then that is a daring and brilliant creative choice-- and should / could be used as a selling point. It would be a hard sell for today`s audience, but it has a charming nostalgic or historic quality that may enhance the book`s appeal. Sometimes, it almost has a Young Adult vibe (this could also be a bad thing, depending on POV).
The Silver is the first of a planned trilogy, and might be treated as an origin story for an alternative kind of super hero.
Unfortunately, the author confesses the old pulp style is accidental was not an intentional gimmick. Which just makes it seem badly written and poorly edited.
Even accepting the stylized pulp mag approach, that writing style from a previous era can be difficult to relate to by today`s standards, today`s readers. Also, even excusing that, the writing could still use a lot of adjustment to refine the pacing, flow and sentence structure. Not to mention development of various narrative aspects. Many elements could use more elaboration or explanation, and further re-conceptualization (in my opinion).
RECOMMENDATION: Despite the clumsiness of composition, the story itself is not bad.
If you engage the story as being told in the old pulp magazine style (as I did), you might find The Silver appealing. Assuming you like that sort of thing.