Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Requiem by Frances Itani

Black outside.

Okay. It's night.

A solid blur of black.

Okay, it's really night.

A wall of mountain behind.

Lost me. Behind what? Black? How can anything be behind black? This makes no sense; could it be because: It's. A. Sentence. Fragment?

A man moving about out there would instinctively raise his hands to push his way through the dark.

That's subjunctive mood, which means there isn't actually a man out there, so what does it matter? Thus ends the first paragraph of yet another inexplicable prologue. I think I'm beginning to understand what Elmore meant, rest his soul. These prologues which come crashing in from outer space should be illegal, unless it actually tells a story. More often than not they are the result of an overly introspective writer, high on vocabulary or...well, high on something.

Next sentence:
Inside, lumps and shadows cast by the kerosene lamp. 

How does a lamp cast a lump? Oh, wait a second, I get it, this is poetry, isn't it?

First dialogue:

"Hiroshi. You are number-one son, born in the year of the monkey. You are a strong boy and you will grow up to be a strong man. Because of your fate, you will be skilled at whatever you choose to do."

Thank-you, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Chapter One:

The call from my sister, Kay, comes in the evening.

When we use a definite article (the) it means that both speaker (writer) and listener (reader) know what the hell the noun is referring to. The call. What is "the call"? I guess it depends; if you are an actor or waiting for someone to die so you can get your grubby little hands on their cash. I don't see why it's important to say evening. I suppose I will have to read on to see if it matters that it was evening. But I'm losing interest.

Second call in a week.

Implying impatience? Tension? Because calling someone twice is obsessive and must mean conflict.

Next line, new paragraph:

"He isn't dying, Bin."

First paragraph has been salvaged. Still, why begin with superfluous info that doesn't contribute to conflict or character. Unless it's to say: Hey, look, this is getting better with every sentence, isn't it? Aren't you lucky to be reading this! Some people think they need to set up a story before they tell it, or set up context before they tell a story instead of trusting the reader is smart enough to figure things out as the story is being told. This is just a very small example: Leave what will actually interest the reader for later. But a writer is taking a giant leap of faith assuming the reader will remain. Fortunately for this book, it gets to the point sooner than later.

Oh, and mesmerizing the reader with vague wording neatly folded away in a prologue is not hooking anyone but pedantic virgins, easily turned on by a clever syllable. Um, whatever that means.

I give this a pass (barely), because of Chapter One where the story should actually start, a first chapter which works for the most part, but it would have scored higher if it weren't for the pretentious prologue that begins like stuck-up words climbing out of the sludge of a primordial plot.

[EDIT: I've changed my mind. This is a fail. See comment above regarding prologue]

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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