Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen by R.T. Lowe

Some DNF reviews are the hardest to write. The problem is that there’s an impression that our “DNF” books are the worst we’ve read – after all, what could be worse than a book we couldn’t manage to finish? Well it’s certainly true for some of our DNFs, but most of our absolutely terrible books are so bad that I feel almost compelled to keep reading either to fully describe all their awfulness or in an almost train-wreck like ghoulish inability to look away

This book is not awful. It is not terrible. But, at over 500 pages, it is long – and by the time I got to page 210, I, sadly, lost interest. At this point the only supernatural things we’d had were a nifty prologue and then lots of hints.

The prologue, set in classical times, was promising – we had magic and prophecy and different factions and choices and clear challenges and conflict and lots of nifty well written action. That prologue managed to keep me going for pages.

But after that we focus on Felix, a fairly ordinary teenaged boy who is clearly going to become the protagonist special one with lots of power. And there’s a lot of good things about this character – he has recently lost his parents in a terrible accident (which totally won’t be an accident) and he is an excellent depiction of someone suffering trauma. His guilt, his grief, his pain is all very realistic – it’s really well done and built into his character

What isn’t built into the character is the actual plot. And for 200 pages I’ve been following Felix around waiting for something to happen beyond him pining after a beautiful girl, playing football, drinking coffee and portraying his excellently depicted trauma.

We do get lots of fake outs. Like he’ll apparently be attacked and there’ll be action and a possibility of plot… but it’s a dream (it so wasn’t a dream. No it’s not a dream. Damnation don’t just let this lie as a dream!). And then he’ll see a woman in odd clothes on campus who runs… so he chases her. Who does that? It’s the middle of the night and he sees a strange woman and just decides to chase her?! But anyway he decides she’s a vampire or a ghost (this is NOT a magical incorporated world) and ends up exploring tunnels and crypts and then… going home.

Oh how I seethed.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back (check that twisted metaphor) was when a guy who clearly knows all about the supernatural/prophecy/thingy (which I don’t know about) decided to catch up with Felix in a coffee shop. After many pages of being cryptic and vague and annoying Felix he finally says “I knew your mother” special cryptic woo-woo… then has to leave. What, did he leave the gas on or something? Why even bother Felix in the first place if you’re just going to dump crypticness and then disappear?

It’s immensely frustrating and follows a number of sideplots that have been doing the same level of hinting and teasing. Like there’s an actor playing a huge publicity game. It takes pages and pages and is definitely pushing an interesting side-plot along with Felix’s reality show friend about the nature of celebrity and social media as well as how vast sums of money are earned for very little. It’s a really good side plot. An excellent side plot. A side-plot I would praise – if there was an actual main plot for it to be connected to.

There’s the care-taker who is clearly is in on the big secret which he keeps referring to without actually revealing anything and that is SOOO FRUSTRATING!.

And there’s something in the forest being all scary and stuff and a big corporate guy who is clearly evil – all these characters but nothing actually advancing.

Part of me wants to keep reading this book because there is clearly the core to a lot of good here. There’s some excellent side plots and commentary – but I’m struggling and have been struggling for over 50 pages. The lack of progress in the plot is exacerbated by some really long winded writing. There’s a lot of description in far more detail than is needed, the writing cycling round and repeating itself over and over again. It’s so long, it’s so hard work and page after page I have to resist doing something else, anything else and force myself to return to reading

It’s depressing – the concept has huge potential. There are side plots here that I would be fascinated by, but the fundamental structure is missing. No matter how great the musculature is, it’s missing a spine. And is just kind of flopping around unable to move forwards.