Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Rathbones by Janice Clark

Moses knows what will happen.

It's comforting to know that someone knows what this story is about, but rather than be told this, I'd prefer to know myself. The rest of the first paragraph is confusing and raises questions, not about the story, you know, character and conflict, but about what was this author was thinking when writing this. Take a look t what's next:

Not just how the trials will go today, or what the fathers will do when their golden sons fail and how the boys' mothers will bear it. The green of his eyes has long since been burned away by the sun on the sea, and there is no window in the little room. But he sees it all anyway, from his high blue bed. He sees the whole sweep of it.

There are a lot of ideas in this paragraph and none of them feel related. We have trials, green eyes burned by sun on the sea, a little room, a high blue bed and seeing it, whatever it is. Then as if to explain everything the next paragraph begins with sperm whales! This is starting to read like free verse thinly disguised as prose. Anyway, that's enough of the prologue. On the plus, the prologue is short so you can whiz right by it. Let's see if there is a story, you know, with conflict and character, that begins chapter 1.

Chapter 1:

If I had not heard the singing voice that night, none of the rest might have happened.

This is preamble, a common variety the "if things had been different, than things would have been different" beginning. It's an awkward way to begin a story these days, as it's more about the how to tell a story than the what the story is. Fortunately I don't come across this type of opening enough to call it a cliche, but it by no means is creative. We should start a new label: If only... and collect other novels under the label that begin like that.

This occurs in 1859. The next paragraph gets interesting when we learn that Mama might still be carving her bones, another might still be lingering in the attic, both of the narrator's crows would still be accompanying him/her everywhere. So there is some strangeness here, that can take the form of a hook if you care to untangle everything.

First thing said:

"A race of giants once lived on a faraway island."

This begins a story within the story.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Rudy Globird

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