Posts Tagged ‘strange timelines’

Randolph’s One Bedroom: Andrew Oberg

August 24, 2011 5 comments

When winter stretches on for half the year and people are forced to spend entirely too much time indoors, strange things are bound to happen. Randolph’s city of Sornsville, and the local coffee shop he works at, are no exceptions. But through all the irate customers and cryogenically preserved mammals, the drinks that magically disappear just when their order has come up, and the simian clerks that know far too much for their own good, Randolph somehow manages to keep an even keel. Here are twenty linked stories, or twenty episodes if you will, about Randolph and the small, frozen, and thoroughly odd part of the world he inhabits.


A good short story is more than a vignette: something or someone has to change in the course of it; its characters need to learn things, or change their minds, and move on in some way, otherwise the piece of writing—no matter how beautifully phrased it is—will be little more than a series of disjointed actions, observed by a disinterested reader.

Randolph’s One Bedroom is that disjointed thing. Each episode that I read was a reasonable account of a string of events, but that doesn’t make a story: there was no character development, and no sense of growth and no conclusions: just accounts of small snippets of time, with some slightly odd behaviour included for no real reason that I could see.

There was also too much exposition; far too much detail, much of which I found dull; and quite a few points where the writer contradicted himself, made illogical statements, or used a word which jarred and so stopped the flow of the text.

I like short story collections and I like writing which is quirky and slightly off-kilter: I’d hoped that this collection would deliver me some of that quirk. Instead, this is a lacklustre collection of pieces which are, I suspect, intended to intrigue and delight but which only served to bore me by the time I’d finished reading.

I hope the writer considers plot and pacing more carefully in his future work; and that he learns to edit his work far more stringently than he has edited this collection.

I read twenty-two out of its one hundred and forty-three pages and those twenty-two pages were heavy going. I hope that this author will do better as he becomes a more experienced writer.

al-Qaeda Strikes Again

June 11, 2009 Comments off

Bill Binkley:

Has taken his first excursion into fiction with this fast-paced and exciting book about international terrorists.

al-Qaeda Strikes Again

The inexplicable suicide of a female passenger at JFK International Airport and a secret list discovered by authorities in Pakistan set the stage for a diabolical and deadly a-Qaeda plot involving simultaneous and catastrophic acts of terrorism across the United States. In a race against time, the only question is whether Terrorism Task Force Leader, Wayne Kirby, and his Rambo-like girlfriend, Rennie Jordan, will live long enough to unravel the details, find the terrorists and put a stop to their deadly jihad.

A few months after OJ Simpson’s murder trial a flood of novels about celebrities who had got away with something appeared on editors’ desks. The ones I saw offered nothing new and were, on the whole, barely-disguised retellings of OJ’s tale.

A similar influx of derivative works arrived after 9/11, only this time they had a far more sinister edge. Stories in which the bad guys were bad guys simply because they were Muslims, or Foreign, littered the slush-piles. Most paid little attention to developing a believable plot or creating compelling characters: simply showing (or more usually, telling) that a character was somehow Other was considered enough to establish him or her as a potential terrorist. It is a deeply racist approach, and one which the author of al-Qaeda Strikes Again relies upon to tell his story.

The book begins with a woman flying into America and dying soon after she arrives at the airport. Right from the start she is suspected of being a terrorist despite there being no evidence of that apart from her name: Safia Makhdoom.

Luckily, this story is told so very badly that I didn’t have to read much of it is to find my fifteen errors. The book contains a fair scattering of punctuation problems (hyphens are commonly used when dashes should appear; comma-splices abound), a couple of spelling mistakes, and numerous nameless characters which are indistinguishable from one another. The one exception is an “officer” (of what, I’m not quite sure) who is distinguished from his colleagues by the “epaulets” [sic] he wears. Whole weeks are lost in time-slips; characters disappear on trips which should be mysterious, considering how little reason or excuse is given for them: instead they are simply dull absences of dull characters in a book which you’d be better off avoiding.

I read five pages of this one, and suggest that you don’t even consider trying it.

Refined In The Furnace Of Affliction: John McCulloch

May 28, 2009 4 comments


John McCulloch’s oldest son received a head injury at birth, re-sulting in blindness. A second injury at age 28, resulted in his being confined to a nursing home for life. This book is about how these afflictions and others led one family to a positive result.

Refined in the Furnace of Affliction is John McCulloch’s account of both his own life and the life of his son John, who received a head injury at birth and was subsequently disabled. There’s an insistent strand of Christianity and prayer in this book, and a strong focus on the need for family life, and it’s obvious that McCulloch is passionate and devoted to all of these things. Sadly, he isn’t a good writer and that lack of expertise means that this book is a flat, dull read.

Most of the pages reminded me of the journals I used to keep as a child: “I got up and then I had my breakfast and then I brushed my teeth and went to school”. It’s all tell and no show and it’s very disorganised, too: in the middle of what should be a heartbreaking tale of the birth of his disabled son, McCulloch abruptly breaks into an account of how his wife got a good deal on a car.

This is a very badly-written book which I wish I could have reviewed more favourably. I read only eleven of its one hundred and fourteen pages.

Collision of Angels: Michael Carver

April 23, 2009 10 comments

When Tony Campbell accepts his father-in-law’s invitation to chat, he braces himself for yet another of Silas Jackson’s ambitious business schemes. But even in his wildest imagination, Tony couldn’t have prepared himself for what Silas proposes this time: a run for the United States presidency. In the wake of recent controversial elections, Silas and his colleagues fear America is being run by the few and has turned its back on God. Their remedy: attempt to put a man of faith into the White House. This crusade proves to be the ultimate challenge however, and Tony finds himself facing his greatest test of faith ever. What appears to be a battle between church and state in the human realm is gradually revealed to have far higher stakes — with ramifications that echo throughout eternity. People on both sides of the aisle will recognise intriguing arguments in this novel and will doubtlessly be waiting for Collision of Angels to continue.

Collision of Angels has it all—if you’re looking for the mistakes that new writers make.

I found clichés (including several in the back cover copy), confusing constructions, and point-of-view switches so frequent and so swift that at times I found it impossible to work out which character’s head I was meant to be in, even with repeated re-readings. Then there was the repeated use of exposition; and the chapter which begins with the words “six months later” then on the following page abruptly switches to a story which happened “nearly twenty years ago”. While it’s fine to time-slip on occasion, it has to be done a little more carefully than that.

Add to all of that character who sometimes has a severe stammer, but who can sometimes speak more fluently than I can, and it’s no wonder that I read just six of the 428 pages that this overlong book contains.