24 August 2006

The Itinerant

(This entry is quite overdue... I blame it on my over-packed schedule.)

The Itinerant is a book written by one of my army friends. It is a gentle blend of fantasy, mystery, as well as science fiction (which renders it immune to whatever scientific errors I might have issues with). Its style, for good or bad, deviates from much of the sci-fi books in the market, though, admittedly, I have not read enough of them to be certain how much this book differs.

However, what is certain is that grammatical or spelling errors are bound to surface to the reader. This is a result of the author self-publishing the book in an online publishing firm, Lulu. While this does away with the additional costs of professional editing and removes possible clouding as the book makes its way from the author to the readers, the price he has to pay is the existence of some typographical errors, as well as the loss of perhaps better ways of phrasing certain words or sentences.

In any case, it should not bother me or any other casual readers too much, since it is the storyline in the story that is important. This is how the synopsis goes:

Byrne has been wandering the globe since the day he can remember. Driven by an inexplicable restlessness that prevents him from settling down in one place for any significant period of time, he wanders aimlessly from town to town without knowing why. It seems like this is going to be the norm for the rest of his life until one day things take a turn for the surreal. His most recent landlord winds up dead, subject to a mysterious ailment known as the Dry Death. He meets an enigmatic man who offers him a job – a job that seems too good to be true. His body starts exhibiting some rather unusual changes. He comes across a strange and elusive lady who seems to be avoiding not just him but his employers as well. As the strangeness starts escalating day by day, Byrne will discover that there are more links to all these events than he initially thought, and in his quest for the truth, he will find not only his fair share of secrets and hidden agendas but the very reason for his itinerancy...

It is a brave attempt for the author to break out of the standard mold of sci-fi books. In my opinion, not only is it brave, but the story is also fairly good for a first attempt. In general, the flow of the story runs pretty smoothly just like all conventionally-published books, though at certain points the flow turns a bit bumpy and dry. Nonetheless, as with most mystery books, once the reader reaches the I-should-stop-at-the-next-page-*flip*-or-maybe-the-next... point, the following pages will become a quicksand.

Another plus point about this story is that it is not overbearing on any particular genre. Though I do consider it somewhat a sci-fi, it does not have spaceships, hyperspace travel, ion cannons and stuff like these as its skeleton. Its elements of mystery may be stronger, but the focus is not on solving riddles and cracking codes. These different genres are mixed together to complement each other.

However, one area which I thought improvements can be made in is its action scenes. While it may be fine to some, my opinion is that these parts could been written in a quicker and more powerful style. Of course, I could be biased since I always favoured gongfu-styled fighting, partly a result of Louis Cha's wuxia novels and partly my preferred way of describing an action scene.

I do recommend this book for the above reasons as well as another: it is cheap: S$1. This book can be purchased online, either by digital form (PDF format) or printed version (which is much more expensive even before including shipping costs). Details can be found here.

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