Friday review: Awkward Amber and the Rodent Ravers.


So, here we are again, Friday. And I found an indie story to review.

I loved the title, so I dived in.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the water.

This should have been an easy read and an easy review. This story is just chockful of stuff that makes me happy. Vampires, mutants, a wry sense of humor, and a rich, and detailed world.

Actually, no scratch that last one. There is  a rich world, and there are details, but they rarely go together. The writer has a habit of glossing over stuff that I want to know about, and going into detail about things I don’t care about.

I’m not a reader that needs three paragraphs of description of everything to enjoy the story. You can give me one or two sentences in passing, and I’ll fill in the rest.

But J.L. Smith has the habit of going into extreme detail about say… the Ghostface Killer mask, but glosses over exactly where the story takes place. We find out that information, eventually, but by the time we do, we don’t care.

Or at least, I didn’t.

My other major peeve, the repeated line “This place is weird” or “things don’t make sense here.” While I get the narrator is the survivor of an apocalypse, but who is she talking to? Isn’t this everybody’s new normal? Who is she telling that it’s weird? The fictional person in her head that she’s talking to? Who, in this world, doesn’t know that things are ‘weird’?

We never do find out  who she is telling this story to. I do get that the narration is a literary device. Telling “the story” to the reader  in first person is a time-honored tradition. And usually the reader is a stranger to the town/city. But it is assumed the reader is

But it is assumed the reader is familiar with the world. The strange aspects of the story are surrounded by the assumption that the reader finding X weird is what is weird. The weird is the normal to the story. That wasn’t what happened in this story.

Here, Amber keeps shrugging and saying stuff is weird now. But who in her world, wouldn’t know that stuff is weird now? She isn’t telling the story to anybody but herself, so the character saying it over and over actually took me out the story.

I could get into the characters, but I’d rather not. Most were fairly bland, stock characters, played for laughs. The plot, ultimately, fizzles out as Amber’s ‘mission’ turns out to be meaningless upon her return. Not that doing that in a story is a bad thing, but in this case… it felt more like JL wanted to write a ‘funny’ adventure story, but didn’t know how to finish it.

Also, the title is extremely misleading. Amber isn’t awkward at all. She’s competent and brave, managing to complete her mission with relative ease. Other than her constantly talking about how ‘weird’ everything, I liked her. You caught hints of trauma and flashes of an intriguing back story that made her feel real. Unfortunately, one shining, bright wonderful character couldn’t save this story.

So, yeah, this was not my favorite. The writing itself wasn’t bad. I was engaged early on and wanted to see how things ended even after the choices JL made started to break my immersion. And that’s my biggest peeve, a good writer made stylistic choices that broke my immersion.




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