Sunday, December 21, 2008

Review: Alpha, Omega

Alpha, Omega is a novel written by Lori Stephens and self-published via BookSurge. The novel revolves around a quasi-religious cult and the mysterious power of its holy book, the Librah Vae-ta.

Spoiler Alert!

The story is an engaging enough action/adventure: mysteries are solved, people are hurt, people fall in love, relationships are broken but ultimately everything is happily resolved, etc. While reading (I read most of the novel over dinners at a nearby bar/restaurant) I found myself wondering how things would end (clearly a critical requirement for any suspenseful yarn), but was bothered by some basic aspects of the plot. Let's accept that language can set up some kind of neural resonance and impact people as depicted. And that taking random words/characters from an assortment of languages can have some discernible meaning. But, how does this work in only one direction? How can people (such as Gatsby) speak words that cause this reaction in others without experiencing the effects themselves while they are speaking?

Also, it is unclear to me what the organization really wants/desires? Total control of the world? Power and Money? Omega comes across as a somewhat empty vessel of malevolent evil, without any real motivation. Their motiviation is unclear. Just how old are they? The same sense of incompleteness applies to Woodie Sanderson and his mysterious journey to find himself in religion. What's up with him? No deep insight is related to the reader from his years of soul searching. Just some weird stalker-emails and a My Heart Will Go On style reunion (Kama). Mechanically, he was useful for the fancy brain monitoring seen, but the character seemed under developed.

The novel also lacks a sense of place. The action unfolds in London, but other than references to the tube and to lifts, I did not get a sense of the city. Why London instead of elsewhere? I believe that Stephens is from the Seattle area--why not set the story in that city so that it could be more easily anchored into a fleshed out setting?

At times the writing seemed a bit clunky. Some passages gave a sense of: I'm standing over here, and I need to be over there, so let me just walk slowly across and look, there I am. This is in contrast to times when the events of the story appear to naturally follow from the set up, without any forceful writing to propel things along.

Since my pedantic side is on full display, I'll mention that I found the use of exclamation points to be a little wearing. For example, the first sentence of the book is:
The fate of my soul!!

Is that second exclamation point really necessary? There are some additional minor textual/low level things that bothered me while reading.

As I said up top though, I found the actual story to be engaging, but feel the novel would benefit from greater depth and character development. But then again, I think this was intended to be a quick read thriller, and my choices for fiction tend to go more toward the engrossing, expansive, all encompassing style.

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