Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: Dead Forever: Awakening By William Campbell

William Campbell tackles the subject of reincarnation in his novel Dead Forever: Awakening. In this story, we find a group of rebels fighting for the right to live as they wish and conform to their own whims rather than someone else’s. The enemy is the Association, bent on making every sentient species they encounter conform to their idea of perfection in order to stamp out chaos and elements of violent dissent. The reincarnation comes into play in this book because the rebel society is fully aware of the soul’s ability to be reborn. In fact, one of the ingenious parts of the book that Campbell does well is that, if someone dies in a war, they have alternate vessels waiting for the soul to occupy and re-enter battle.

Dead-Forever-Awakening Another smart idea Campbell has is full memory and the Association’s hatred of this soul memory from lifetime to lifetime. How do you kill something that will just rise again to fight you? The Association’s answer is to brainwash people using pain as a deterrent to free thought and to teach the soul that there is only one lifetime and that God will decide where you will spend eternity—Heaven or Hell. Then, the body is disposed of with the soul following it blindly to the far ends of the known galaxy, unaware of the power of reincarnation.

As brilliant as the concept is, this is one of the things that was poorly done in the book. It philosophizes too much and too soon to be natural; information is given too quickly in the beginning. The main character, one who was rescued from the brainwashing, is subjected by excited compatriots spilling the ideas of why reincarnation makes so much more sense than the idea of God, Heaven, and Hell. The aggressive approach to anti-Christian life-after-death mentality is introduced too early and can serve to put people off who, given better lead in and less obvious comparison may actually have given readers more to think about. It also has these odd lucid dreaming sequences that are a bit too existential to fuse well with the rest of the book’s content.

Characterization suffered as well, mostly with the believability of the main character. The main character shifts from being a hardened soldier, to a crude mouthed drunk, to a philosophizing spiritual, to a man who literally can use thought to heal himself and fix anything in sight, all in one book. People are multi-faceted, but this is just too much for one book to cover in the amount written. More time and development of the plot and characters would probably have made a longer, but so much more smooth plot line to follow.

Lastly, grammar was sometimes left at the roadside and made it difficult to understand what the author was trying to convey. I choose one problematic paragraph from the beginning of the book because it was the one I remember the most. Others I had to skip over because my mind refused to try and wade through it all.

“Even though I’ve seen it all before, every visit I have to gawk at the odd knock-knacks mounted to the walls. A car’s grill, banged up road signs, on the other wall an antique something, looks like an egg-beater, next to a transistor radio, and ancient photos behind cracked glass in broken frames, of people from some other century. Dusty junk hangs from the ceiling, worn tools with splintery handles, a pogo-stick, that might be fun, next to a rusty saber, all sorts of crap”.

The combination of sentence fragments, commas instead of semi-colons, and random thoughts mixed in without warning to the reader, jolted me out of my reader chair and into my teacher’s chair as I strove to make sense of what I was reading. Though this did not happen throughout the book, it happened enough that I settled more comfortably into the mindset of having to switch between being a reader and being a teacher in order to safely navigate through the all the book’s grammatical bends. It is understandable that an author does not need to be completely perfect at grammar, and that a misplaced comma or two won’t kill anybody, but there are basic rules to follow so that ideas are not lost on the audience.

All in all, the book was enjoyable enough, but the plot and main character need more development and better ways to naturally incorporate the author’s ideas without making the story feel as though it is going through a sci-fi vs. spiritual guidance personality crisis.

Dead Forever: Awakening is available through Amazon Kindle.

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