CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 3

Yesterday I’d planned on discussing setting and mood because I think Mike Duran excels in painting a scene, as evidenced by his latest release and this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, The Telling. Instead I got caught up in the comparison of Biblical prophets with the fictitious one portrayed in the novel. All that to explain the pictures in this post. They may seem unrelated, but if you look at the cover, and especially if you read the book, you’ll see they actually do relate.

The Review

The Story. Zeph Walker has a disfiguring scar on his face, but it’s as much a symbol of the scar across his soul as anything. Both paralyze him, but the town of his youth that has also become the home of his adulthood, needs him. In fact, the whole world may need him, if the prophecy is true. But that’s just it, how does he know if prophecy is true, especially the ones that once came from his own mouth?

Strengths. Mike Duran is a wonderful writer and a good storyteller. One reason I thought to devote an entire post to the setting in The Telling is because of Mike’s strong description. Here’s one early in the story:

She looked past the pines and boulders toward the Endurance basin. From here, US 395 snaked its way up from Death Valley, a dark, glistening ribbon that coiled, rose, and disappeared in the Black Pass farther north…These hills were full of tales. Indians. Miners. And Silverton, the ghost town hidden somewhere in the rugged foothills. Yet the most well-know of these tales was the one that placed the ninth gate of hell in an abandoned mine less than a mile from she stood. Tamra stopped and set her gaze in that direction. Morning fog wrapped the distant foothills in its hazy tendrils.

Not only does this kind of description give an image the reader can imagine, it paints a mood. Mike successfully uses his setting–often bleak and rocky, with splashes of ominous color–to add to the mystery and sense of foreboding and danger that steadily creeps from page to page.

Along with the setting and the mood it helps foster, Mike knows how to create suspense. He is a master at keeping secrets from readers, dropping hints at just the right time and in just the proper quantity so that the reader ends up with more questions and therefore a greater desire to know.

Suspense merged with a dark mood and a disfigured main character hardly seems to be the recipe for thought-provoking fiction, but Mike manages to stir the pot and make this horror story as much about faith and overcoming abuse as about escaping danger.

Weaknesses. Of course I’ve left out a great deal of the story–I detest giving spoilers in the summary. And yet, it’s hard to give a fair analysis without looking at some details. Consequently, I have to declare a SPOILER ALERT for this section.

My greatest issue with the book had to do with certain plot points–I call them holes for lack of a better term.

First, the story opens with Zeph discovering that a man who looked exactly like him is lying dead in the morgue. As the story unfolds, the reader comes to understand that others have a duplicate too, except the originals have been replaced and, in fact, turn up dead.

As I recall, when all this is revealed, there is no explanation given how Zeph managed to be duplicated without knowing it and without being killed.

Later, when Zeph is on his way to do what he believes he needs to do, he’s attacked, but again, he doesn’t die, and I don’t recall an explanation (or at least one that satisfied so it stuck with me), why he wasn’t killed. Two friends find him–but don’t really rescue him–and together they set off for a different place to locate the real site from which evil is escaping.

Except they separate. The mysterious armed Indian, heads off to confront an evil force, leaving Zeph and the brave girl who chooses to stay with him.

Two things here: This sudden and fast friendship between Zeph and Tamra didn’t work for me. I believed the early interest and even the attraction, but when she says something about having to stay with him, I thought, Why? I don’t see why she would choose Zeph over her grandmother.

In addition, Little Weaver’s departure felt too much like those silly girls in horror movies who hear a noise and go into the dark to investigate. Stay together, I said. Stay together. But no, they must split up.

But why? Later Little Weaver turns up, with an injury but still alive, in the same place as the grandmother, which is where Zeph and Tamra finally go. So again, I wonder what was the point of them splitting up in the first place.

There’s also a government conspiracy thread to the story, which I thought worked, but I would like to have had the character responsible for the events associated with this be more active in the story. He lurked far too long, I believe.

Along that line, I’d like to have seen Little Weaver have a significant role in Zeph’s life–one that would fit Zeph’s emotional reaction at the end. It seemed odd to me to respond as he did to the loss of someone who he freely admitted he didn’t understand and didn’t trust. [END SPOILER ALERT]

But the thing is, the people who love this genre, whose reviews I’ve read, made little mention, if any, of these plot holes. The fact that the suspense and the mystery pulled the story along in such a way that apparently few readers were trying to make things add up, speaks volumes to Mike’s storytelling ability.

Recommendation. As I say every time the CSFF Blog Tour features a novel in the supernatural suspense genre, I am not the target reader. Those who enjoy the spooky, the dark, the slightly warped, will like this book. A lot. Those who like myths and mysteries and Indian legends will like it too. It is well written, filled with beautiful description, and brings to mind some big issues that the thoughtful reader will appreciate. Highly recommend this one for any in that group.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on September 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm  Comments (4)  
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