“Refraction” by Terry Geo

It’s difficult to give a mediocre review to what is basically a good story. But in this book there is just too much superfluous material  keeping the reader from enjoying the characters and the conflict. This novel reads like the screenplay for an 8-episode Netscape series, complete with all the explanations of the scenes, telling us what’s going on and what the characters are thinking and feeling.

This novel has two problems. “Telling, not showing” occurs for the first fifth of the book. Literally the first eight chapters out of forty are concerned with exposition. Each time we think the story is about to start, we are introduced to yet another character, complete with a whole chapter of backstory.

Then, once the action does begin, it is constantly interrupted by segues into the author’s imagination. This is worldbuilding run amok, eclipsing the story arc, the emotional voyage of the reader and the suspense. In the middle of the action climax, we detour through a planetarium, a natural history museum and a wax museum of modern entertainers, stopping to see the Big Bang, pet dinosaurs and lions, play interactive video games, hobnob with toons and play out a Star Trek scene. All great stuff, but it seriously gets in the way of the story. And then it ends with a real-life deus ex machina — a god in the machine — a la 2001: a Space Odyssey.

And hidden in all this dross is a good Sci-Fi plot, about really interesting and sympathetic characters. I really enjoyed the story when it appeared.

This is a novel written by a talented screenplay writer who tries to make up for the lack of pictures by putting in thousands of words. He knows that all those explanations that you put in a screenplay don’t actually appear in the finished film. What he hasn’t picked up is that they shouldn’t appear in the novel, either.

In theatre and film (and yes, I have worked in both) you have a whole team of supporting artists who give you feedback and keep you from making mistakes. In novel writing, you only have yourself. This book is a great first draft of what could be a good novel. It needs a complete slash-and-burn edit to get rid of all the extraneous details and explanations and to put the plotline in proper sequence.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)



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