Deviating from the standard review, I have something a bit special for you today. The Guardian, on its books blogs, posted a very neat article that was filled with tips on writing from great writers. The spec fic fan will quickly recognize both Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman who give us ten great writing bullet points to live by. For you entertainment pleasure, I give you the five rules that Shadow Prowler, by Alexey Pehov, sinfully breaks - and then breaks again.
From Elmore Leonard:
Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
I am guilty of breaking this rule myself, but Shadow Prowler makes my abuse look like a coffee addict standing next to a heroine junky!
This handy and sadly unheeded rule comes form Geof Dyer:
Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.
Absolute and total fail. Every single review of Shadow Prowler has lamented the fact that it is a massive ball of le cliche. I can confidently say that if sheer abundance of cliches makes for good reading, then Shadow Prowler is going to win The Locus, The Nebula, and The Nobel. On a side note, has spec fic ever won a Nobel?
This recommendation comes from Jonathan Franzen:
Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
Ok, so Mr. Pehov only sort of breaks this rule. I found the first-person perspective to be engaging for the most part.
This next piece of mind-blowing advice comes from Margaret Atwood:
Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
OK, so I might have exaggerated a bit about the mind blowing part... Did you do back exercises Mr. Pehov? Did you?! (See what I mean about the exclamation points?!)
Last but not least, some more sage advise from Jonathan Frazen:
The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
Wound within this rule lies my main criticism of the novel; I felt like a spectator and not a friend. Highly subjective I know, but just like this snarky pseudo-review I can't help but be myself.
As a last little side note, I want to add that the language was probably my favorite aspect of the book. The slightly off-kilter humor and the strange idioms gave the novel an authentic, almost earthy feel. So yes, chalk up some good points and unbroken rules for Shadow Prowler, but all in all a slightly childish and lackluster read that will send you running back into the arms of your favorite authors. Oh, and to whoever it was that compared this to the Wheel of Time and named it epic fantasy at its finest... ware my wrath.