The Fall suffers from some big problems. The first is a series of careless errors which litters its pages: not only did I find problems with apostrophe-use and grammar, there were a few instances of exposition which explained things which were actually wrong. For example, the information given about how one of the characters funded his academic research, and what that research was meant to achieve, is at odds with how academic research really works. Had the author spent just ten minutes checking his facts I’d have been able to find his story much more believable. What makes it worse is that the information provided in that chunk of exposition wasn’t at all necessary to the story and could easily have been cut.
The bigger problem, though, was the tone of the writing.
The narrative frequently lapses into a lecturing, disapproving tone which I found thoroughly off-putting. The implication is that ancient civilisations were good and modern ones are bad; and that ancient knowledge was insightful and inspiring while modern technology renders our civilisation crass and insensitive. This, coupled with a stereotypical, somewhat dismissive view of today’s South American culture gave the book an unsympathetic and judgemental edge which made me reluctant to read on.
If the writer could introduce more variety of tone, could learn to not present things in such a black and white way, and could manage to be more sympathetic to his characters, then this book would be significantly improved; and once he manages that a scrupulous copyedit would resolve the book’s other issues. Whether this would be enough to change this from an ordinary predictable read into an exciting and interesting one, I’m not so sure. I read eleven of this book’s three hundred and thirty nine pages.
History flows like a river with tributaries and small streams feeding it on its inexorable journey to the sea. Sometimes it is blocked by ice or artificial dams, but it always breaks through. Floods and droughts change the level of the water, making it flow faster or slower, destructively or congenially. Most people enjoy the quiet times by the river, but historians prefer the rapids and violent waterfalls.
I read just eight pages of Petalon, which is a shame. If Mr. Hyzer had revised this book more thoroughly and paid more careful attention to the details, he could have had a real winner on his hands.
The little I read was full of potential: I think there could be a good story here, and the author does show an understanding of structure and pacing, which are both very important in fiction. However, his writing was often jumbled and confusing; he drops chunks of exposition into his text which further disrupt its flow; he makes sweeping statements which range from wrong to ludicrous; and he really needs to improve his copy-editing skills if he wants to hold his readers’ attention.
I did come across the odd undercurrent of excitement in the text: brief moments when there was a buzz of tension, which reminded me a little of Grisham and Coben. The difference is that both Grisham and Coben establish that tension early and then maintain it for pages at a time, whereas in Hyzer’s text it’s gone almost as soon as it appears.
Petalon looks suspiciously like an early attempt at writing to me. This writer has the potential to achieve much more, and to be much better. Whether he’ll realise that potential is entirely up to him, and the effort that he’s prepared to put in from now on.