Friday, July 18, 2014

Radiant Shadows: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A review for Radiant Shadows, by Sarah Baethge

Nutshell: Vampires. And anti-vampires. And a Good/Evil dichotomy that's actually a Light/Dark dichotomy that's actually an Optimistic/Pessimistic dichotomy... I think? Well, there's a rogue vampire that has to be taken down and things happen and the plot makes sense, maybe, but little else does. 

Atmosphere: 1 out of 5. It was... okay at first, but then the story tries to present itself as an in-universe document and it falls apart. We know that it's an in-universe document because that's how it's being described and talked about. And we know that's how it is for the first part, at least, because the narrator is talking about certain concepts not just as if the reader doesn't know what they are, but explicitly because the reader doesn't know and the narrator wants xem to understand. It's this next thing that's the trouble: The supernatural world is not in the open. It is a secret. So this story is being written as an in-universe document directed, apparently, at people who don't know about vampires and witches and things, despite there being an organization, which this narrator works for, which wants to keep that stuff secret.

Characters: 2 out of 5. The only character that I remotely cared about was Caroline. I don't even know why, it was just something about her bubbliness. Still, that didn't even last until the end of the first part (let's just say she's not very smart).

Plot: 2 out of 5. What it says in the nutshell. There's a rogue vampire! And stuff happens! And half of it could be avoided with the common sense that God gave to one of Michael Myers' victims.

Writing Style: The story opens poorly. There are more technical problems than I can shake a twig at: formatting (I say as I keep hitting "Preview" and find myself still unable to fix That One Problem), typos, issues of tense, quote marks being handled badly, missing dashes, the works. I also don't like how the parentheses are inserted into the story or how some words are emphasized with italics and others with bold type without any apparent rhyme or reason. There is also no consistency in any narrative voice.

Worldbuilding: The only strong point of the story, honestly. There are some neat ideas here. The explanation for why vampires need to feed on humans is passable and there are a couple of clever needles in the haystack. There's this dream dimension stuff that was pulled from out of freaking nowhere, but don't worry because we get an infodump to tell us everything we're going to need to know in just a few minutes. I like how vampires have wings there, though, even if the bat wings thing is silly.

I'll be frank: I simply cannot believe that a good editor was employed for this story.

Details, details: [here there be spoilers]

As I mention in the nutshell, I'm a little unsure of what to make of the alignments described in the story. At first they're Good and Evil, and then they're Light and Dark (except that there's apparently nothing to distinguish this system from the first), and while the story vacillates between these two it seems at times that the author is confusing morality with outlook. At least I hope so, because I don't want to read a story where people are "Evil" or "Dark" because they're pessimists. Oh, and this seems to be an inborn condition, which I doubly don't like.

I like how vampires are common in the paralegal profession. It's a good place for them, and I'm not making a joke about lawyers. It really does make sense, up to and including why they're just paralegals.

Why do vampires consider it a punishment to turn someone into a vampire? They seem to like being vampires. That's like if I said "You'd better watch out, or I'm gonna give you some free books." Maybe you don't like books, but I certainly don't know that and it's certainly not widespread enough of an opinion for me to make "give them free books if they're bad" a general policy.

I thought you said "Ultimate Showdown of
Ultimate Destiny."
The Count's accent is stupid and cliche. Do we really need a vampire, called "the Count" no less, who sounds like Bela Lugosi? And why, if this is a private nickname made on the spot and shared with one other person before the namer dies, is it being used by somebody who has a close, familiar relationship with the vampire?

Why can't the narrator in Part Two believe that the "two" Stephen Browns are the same person when one of them is undeniably Weird and the narrator himself is a vampire?

"Ultimate Battleground of the Nightmare Dimension." I can't even...

Good things, good things... Like I said, there were some good needles in the haystack. The author should get some more needles like this, melt them down, and forge them into a Sword of +2 Interesting World. The fat needs to be trimmed, though. This is a fantasy kitchen sink as assembled with parts from eight different manufacturers, one of whom may not really exist.

(this, incidentally, is what I thought of when I read "Ultimate Battleground of the Nightmare Dimension")

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