It remains a crapshoot – Part 2.

The next phase of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards is beginning to roll out. Although I am unaware of full implications of this review in the process, I suspect the PW review carries a lot of the weight in the final decision – below is a copy of the post I made to the competitors forum, and is for reference only.

I’ll be posting a less rambling message here on the blog in a few minutes, and referring back to this post… so this is like a message from the future, but you, future people might be here because of the yet to be written part one.

Hang on, I’m confusing myself – I’ll just leave this here and get on with the other post…

Competitors forum post:

I don’t mind getting criticism. It is something that we, as writers, sign up for as part of this crazy thing we have decided to do.
I don’t mind getting beaten in a fight. I asked for this fight, and fought fair, but it seems the judges cards will reflect a very limited part of my performance.

I’ll add my review and bracket a couple of my concerns, then add some thoughts.

“Towards the end of this thriller, the unnamed narrator observes to himself that while “comprehension was close, it was dancing just outside the light of this conversation.” (this is an indication of how much of the book was actually read – this is paraphrased, and appears in the middle of the book, not “towards the end” )
Readers are likely to empathize with this sentiment, as understanding the book’s plot will be a challenge for many of them. After a murky prologue that discusses “The Movement,” and “The Theory,” and how remembering the departed for beyond a certain length of time has “potential ramifications if the doctrines are to be believed,” (The prologue is a little murky, it is supposed to be, it is a voice from someone at the end of their life, reflecting on what has happened.) things seem to revert to the comprehensible.

The action flashes back 40 years, as a couple’s relaxing summer afternoon is shattered by violence. The husband has just gone inside their house for a moment to bring his wife a drink; to his horror, during his brief absence from her, someone has shot her through the top of her head. He ends up being the prime suspect, but is acquitted after trial. An online friend, Bammer, indicates that she has some vital information to share about the murder, and they ultimately meet up. Her news is unsettling; she believes that his wife was “erased” by people who believe that “erasing memory is one way of ensuring an efficient transition in the afterlife.” The logic of the killing isn’t clear even with more exposition, (unless all of the book is read) and the head-scratching passages detract from anything else the author is trying to achieve. “

This review is on little more than the excerpt.

No mention of the other main characters that feature more than Bammer does – although they don’t arrive until after the excerpt – hence my suspicions regarding the depth of reading by the reviewer.

No mention of the counter issues with the leader of the aforementioned “Movement” – also a primary character; also outside the boundaries of the excerpt.

No mention of the primary subtext – the modern day belief in the myth that is privacy – a story line that has popped up all over the place of late, Snowden, House of Cards, NSA, large corporations handing over intimate information of their users etc. I laughed when all of the current privacy stories broke – Erasure was written 3 years before privacy became a mainstream discussion topic.

Interesting that the reviewer constant refers to the protagonist “Husband” when it is clear in the book that the narrator and their partner could never be married – part of the motivation for Her murder was the relationship itself.

Nowhere in Erasure is the Narrator referred to by gender – not a pronoun, not a preference to sit down or stand up to use the bathroom, nothing – sure, it is not something that many readers have picked up on their own, but it is part of the narrator wishing to erase themselves; to tell a story of their life without leaving any solid record of themselves in the telling – name, gender, location etc.

That the reviewer didn’t pick up on the gender thing is not surprising; it IS something that makes people get all “Wow” when it is pointed out, but it is not something that I expect people to grasp. Applying the same story but switching the assumed gender does not change the story. Gender and “easter egg” writing devices aside, it is clear in the book and in the epilogue that the Narrator wants to be erased but also wants the story of Her to be told. (The Narrator’s partner is also never named – something else that is missing from the review.)

I have other concerns that are not quantifiable – Erasure doesn’t challenge religion, but it does set up a plot that demonstrates what might happen if a group of people follow a false belief, and engage in cult-like behavior. One of the unmentioned characters (in the review) is named “Jesus”; a name that was chosen because it creates a juxtaposition – NOT in some passive protest against religion. Again – the roles of such characters are completely missing from the review. The unquantifiable concern is one of conservatism – but as there is no way I can state that as truth, I can only work on the results I have available to me.

There is nothing salvageable from this review because, in short, I can safely say that the book wasn’t read in its entirety.

A far cry from complete strangers contacting me to tell me that they started reading it on a plane, and then sat down at their destination airport in order to finish it.

A really far cry from strangers contacting me to say how much they understood the concepts in Erasure and that the ideas terrified them.

I’m disappointed in the review, for reasons that are outside my ability to resolve.

All I can hope is that independent reviews add some weight to the decision.
See current “public” competition entry reviews here, and if you’ve got the time, please leave one of your own.

In the paraphrased words of Princess Leia – “You might be my only hope.”

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