Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Behind the Ruins by Michael Lane

I just finished reading Behind the Ruins by Michael Lane. I don't make it a habit to review books, but I liked this one so much I thought I'd tell you about it.

I found the book because I was looking for indie fiction that was at least halfway decent. I'd been slogging through a wilderness of awful ramblings, and when I came across Behind the Ruins I didn't hold out much hope. Why would this one be different? Then I read the first few chapters and realized that while it was still entirely possible there was no plot, at least the characters, the setting and the narrative were a great read for now.

And it turned out there is a plot. I won't tell you what it is, but it swept me up.

The Premise

Here's the blurb from the virtual 'jacket':
The world didn’t end when the meteors came; it changed. 

We meet Grey in the process of killing three people intent on robbing and murdering him. The deaths solve nothing; instead, what he finds on one of the bodies leads to a bloody trip through the wreckage of a world scarred by a near-apocalypse, and inward through his own memories. In the process he becomes involved in a plan that could mean the return of the world he knew as a child, in the time before the Fall.

During his trek from British Columbia into the former United States he must overcome both his own bleak memories and the murderous forces of an old friend. The lessons he takes away and the decisions he makes will determine not only if he has a future, but whether civilization does.

What I Liked

In no particular order, I liked the characters, the plot, the pacing and the setting.

The people in the book seemed very real. They were easy to tell apart by their distinct personalities and habits of speech, and they had complexities, layers and even inconsistencies, like you and I do.

The plot struck me as well-organized without being either contrived or obvious. I kept guessing what was going to happen, and I kept being wrong, which I consider a good sign. And when the book was over, I thought, "Yes, that is probably what would end up happening, if these people were in this situation."

The pacing felt right. It was slow enough to feel gritty and real: I felt forced to relate to the cold and heat, the dirt, the indecision and the dread. And it was fast enough not to make me feel bogged down or bored. There was, perhaps, one section of necessary explanation that dragged a little, but maybe it didn't. I was tired when I read that part, so maybe it was just me.

Michael Lane lives in western Canada, and the story takes place in the borderland of southern British Columbia and northern Washington State. To be honest, it annoys me a little when novel after novel is set in either New York, Los Angeles or a big-city concept of what a 'small town' must be like (yup, I'm talking about Forks, Washington). Michael wrote about his homeland, and that makes a difference in the quality of the book.

What I Didn't Like

Behind the Ruins has the same problem my own books have: a crying need for editing. In fairness, I do not have the latest version, and some of the errors may have been fixed since I downloaded it. Editing is just not one of those things an author can do for his own work. It's one of the growing pains of the indie author/publisher movement. And, yes, we're working on that.

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