Friday, July 11, 2014

The Tree Man: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A review for The Tree Man, by David Bernstein. 

Nutshell: A small town kid finds himself the only one able to defend the town against a horrible evil. But the path is treacherous and fraught with danger, and if he proceeds unwisely then many innocent people may die. 

Atmosphere: 2 out of 5. I didn't feel any, really. There wasn't anything that detracted from the atmosphere but there wasn't anything that built it up well either. 

Characters: 3 out of 5. I really liked Evan's friend and brother. Both of them seemed a little more fleshed-out and realistic for his ages (sometimes it seemed like Evan had taken English lessons from a melodrama actor) and I especially liked how it was obvious that Evan's brother did care about the kid but was also, you know, a big brother who liked to have some fun too. And Evan couldn't quite see it. 

Plot: 3 out of 5. The plot is pretty... okay, but the ending makes it worth reading and the story is short enough that you won't take too long to get there. I don't think that I'd read it again, but I don't feel bad about the time that I spent reading it the first time. 

Writing Style: 3 out of 5. The opening sentence may be intriguing but it's too clunky, too run-on. It gets better, but there's never anything spectacular about the writing and there's always the occasional haphazardly-constructed sentence that feels really weird to read. 

Worldbuilding: 4 out of 5. I would have given it a 3 out of 5 but for an element that I can't really talk because we're above the spoiler line here. Dang it. One thing that kind of sucked for me was the "spell of Revulsion of Void." Something about the name, or maybe the way it was phrased, made me feel very Dungeons and Dragons just then, which wasn't something that carried through the rest of the story. It was jarring, to say the least (and, because riffing on DnD is often done by hacks and this came early on, it made me worry for the story to come). The author also gets points for the idnoid's description and modus operandi, if not for its name (which also felt derivative enough that I'm glad I was reviewing this story because I wouldn't have kept going if I hadn't felt obligated to finish it, and it turned out that these were only initial hiccups). 

Details, details: [here there be spoilers]

Chapter two tells us a little bit too much about the old man, too early.

Crisis Universe, this kids' cartoon program that Evan and his friend watch, sounds really fun, actually, for all the corniness. Alien monsters fighting humans who have had their brains implanted in robots because of a muscle-and-bone destroying plague that the aliens are spreading? I want to see this in all of its Saturday Corny glory. Even with my criticisms of this book in mind, I would definitely drop dollars down for the author to write some Crisis Universe stories.

I like how quickly the old man went down.

Monster trees working for the good guys. I like it.

I really, really like how Genre Savvy Evan gets, and how this screws him over in the end. I am totally gonna be that kid, if I ever wind up in a horror movie. There is nothing worse than not knowing the rules to a horror movie when you find yourself inside one, except for knowing the rules... but not that this is the genre-redefining movie that breaks them all.

I didn't expect what would happen to him, is all I'm gonna say. 

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