Friday, October 24, 2008

At hell -- reviewer Lee Pletzers

@hell by Nora Publish America
194 pages
6X9 Trade paperback.
SBN: 1-4137-1088-3

@hell is the story of Jack Cottrell, a hood, heavy drinker, motorbike racer, owns a Hog and likes to hack in Net. He's also the type of person who likes to 'prove' himself and will never back down from a dare. He comes across as the average tough-guy jock who never grew up after high school. He doesn't realize he's about to enter hell.

An old high school acquaintance returns to the town they grew up in. Davis Travers has always been an ass – and he still is, only now he's a heart surgeon, who's an ass. And engaged to the only girl, Jake ever had any real feelings for.

Davis has a tendency to rub Jake the wrong way and he seems to do it on purpose. Then just as Jake is about to thump him, he magically turns the situation around and convinces him to do what he wants. He knows what buttons to push, and pushes them freely.

Jake's kind-of-buddy introduces him to a site filled with hot naked chicks (a private site). Davis tells Jake to choose one and while he's looking -- such a hard decision to make-- Davis kills the connection.

At home, wondering why he puts up with Davis and his shit, he checks his email and finds a message from How they got his email, he's not sure, only his closest friends have this address. lures Jake via a dare, in the email. They want to know if he wants to play with more of their toys. All he has to do is hit reply.

Never one to back down, he sends off the email, claiming their toys will never be too hot for him -- And then the fun starts.

The book is written in the first person and has all the trappings of a first novel. Repeated words in the same paragraph, loose descriptions and unfilled reasoning. For example: Why does Jake always go to Davis, when he hates the guy? Why does he always give in to what Davis wants him to do? Who or what is @hell? Why is Angie with someone like Davis? And many more. Some of the questions are answered a bit later but all in the first chapter is a little confusing. Oh, and the first chapter is 38 pages long with way too much info crammed into it. Personally, would have like a couple of extra chapters in there to break up the overflow of information.

None of the characters are fully explored or fleshed out enough to warrant my care of their outcome. The main character Jake is described as a rough and tumble kind of guy with excessive drinking and likes fighting, ripped jeans, leathers and stuff like that. He loves his Hog and wants to work on it everyday. And he often mentions how he likes to hack the Net. Umm, to me, this kind of character would not be interested in hacking, as it is a long and tedious thing. He doesn't seem like the kind of character to sit for hours at the computer running programs and writing script. The attitude just doesn't compute.

I felt there was way too much back and forth action happening in the book and each one led to a similar outcome. It seemed like the author was trying to flesh out the action or scene placement before having an earnest course in mind. Or it was padding.

Often confused to his actions, Jake stumbles from one scene to the next in overly long chapters. The action and story slowly builds up the suspense, as the novel evolves and shapes into a well thought out book.

This review may sound mainly negative, when it shouldn't. Writing style aside, the basic idea of the book is an excellent one and I'm sure many readers would enjoy it. I have a tendency to review books on style as much as content. My reviewer's hat never really changes from editor and this is on purpose. A review should include both angles, and I hope I do this evenly and openly.

This type of book (first person), rarely gels with me, unfortunately. I found the character descriptions lacking in the reality department. Maybe there are hackers out there who act the way Jake does – I wouldn't really know, yet I didn't feel “in-tune” with any of the characters except an angel and a demon. I thought the temptress was interesting also.

On another note, Nora does well with supporting characters, I found Rachel Darnell (the afore mentioned temptress) very tempting and playing the role very well. The book also has third person sections, involving Micah the angel who's helping protect Jake, and the demon, Zane, out to do some soul collecting.

If you can get past the weak descriptions and repeated words, you'll find a good story that requires a light brushing with an editor to polish it up to shinning status. The only real annoying thing rampant in this book that really breaks the reading flow are thoughts in speech quotations and quickly followed by actual speech. Many times I thought Jake was speaking, adding action my the words in my head, only to learn it was a thought. Very distracting. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I like thoughts in italics.

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