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Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

Reviews of fantasy books, plus some mystery, sci-fi and literary works, and my random thoughts on book-related matters.

Currently reading

Dragon Queen (The Memory of Flames, #5)
Stephen Deas
The Splintered Eye (The War of Memory Cycle #2)
H. Anthe Davis, Erica Dakin

Soul Identity

Soul Identity - Dennis Batchelder Another free ebook, another plunge into the unknown. Will it be brilliant (unlikely) or trash (more likely) or simply a workmanlike, if readable, effort (most likely). The premise is intriguing - everyone has a unique soul identity, recognisable from the eyes, which reappears down the generations, enabling those with the foresight to bequeathe their future selves their wealth, artworks and knowledge. So far, so promising.

The opening is good - the first-person protagonist, Scott, is a security consultant and computer expert with a likeable personality, a laid-back lifestyle and two of the gamest parents on the planet. And the quaint Bob, and the way Scott is drawn into the soul identity business, are charming and very enjoyable. But after that things get a little bogged down. The new characters come thick and fast, each with some distinguishing folksy quirk rather than a personality, and there's a huge info-dump of background history, made clunkier than it needs to be by the first person narration which forces it all into rather stilted dialogue.

Although the plot rattles along at a fair pace, there's time for detours to India and Venice, where the author takes the opportunity to show off his in-depth research of both places. Not that either place has anything significant to do with the story, they feel more as if they were shoe-horned in because the author has actually visited them and wanted to show off his knowledge of local colour.

On the whole, the plot is fairly predictable. The writing style is so flat that the denouement (which should have been a dramatic moment) is, like the rest of the book, completely free of tension. The characters never rise above the level of cardboard cutouts, and show virtually no emotion no matter what happens to them (even when they are almost blown up). I'm not a big fan of angsty hand-wringing, but I'd expect a slightly stronger response than - well, that was a surprise, here's what we'll do next. In fact, none of the characters really behave believably (although the excitement-seeking parents should get an honourable mention here), and I simply didn't care about any of them.

This isn't a bad book, if you like this sort of thing, and there's a layer of religious philosophy-lite which might appeal to some people, and hey, it's free, which is always good, right? And I finished it, which is something, I suppose. But I really can't give it more than two stars.