Review: Oracle by David Wood and Sean Ellis

Oh man, I feel pretty shitty about not liking this book, since it’s from a small press, and I like to be supportive. But after the initial hundred page glow, this just did not resonate with me, not just in a not for me way, but in a this book needs help way.

I’ll admit it: I picked this book up because I love Tomb Raider. I’ve been a serious fan since I was a teeny tot. My family had TR1 loaded on our computer (this was back when there was just ONE FAMILY COMPUTER in the whole house), and everyone would cluster in to watch my dad play the game. Lara Croft was basically my childhood superhero, and I’ve played through almost all the games, some multiple times. My first experience chatting with people online was on a Tomb Raider fan website. All this to say that I’m a Lara Croft fan through and through, and if some piece of media decides to springboard off that rich legacy, I’ll definitely check it out, with the earnest hope that it will live up to the awesomeness that is the Tomb Raider franchise. Case in point: the horror movie As Above, So Below. I went into that movie blind, realized what it was up to within the first five minutes, then spent the rest of the movie grinning maniacally at my computer screen. I’m not the type of person to get mad about “appropriating a franchise.” For me, more is more when it comes to Tomb Raider, so I went into this ready to be wowed.

And maybe you’re thinking, hey, wait, but this book is a Jade Ihara adventure! It says so on the cover, dumbass! Well, you’re not wrong… But look at the picture on that cover. Look at her image, the pose, the background. Then flip to page 31.

“The man flashed a disarming smile and stepped away from the Jeep, extending a hand. ‘And you must be Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.’

‘Wow. Never heard that one before.’ Strike one, thought Jade.”

The authors know EXACTLY what they’re doing, so don’t even start with that argument.

So here’s the ugly: this book needs serious editing. There are many, many, many sentences that are not working, whether that is because of missing words or punctuation, fragments, run-ons, etc. Internal monologue missing italics, so that the reader is sporadically thrown into a first POV. The prose has a “blinding you with detail” feel–lots of tech and science mumbo-jumbo thrown in to sound fancy. I’d really encourage the authors to do some long, hard thinking about how to bring their third POV closer, since the characters feel super distant. Nix all verbs of the head. (“Thought,” “remembered,” “pondered,” etc.) More attention to these details would make the manuscript vastly more readable.

But the more disappointing thing to me was the characterization. The female characters in this book, Jade being principle, are simply not well thought-out. The book promises a badass female archaeologist! Yet we get stuck with Jade, whose main characterization hinges on a past romance from previous books in the series. Normally I’m not one to harp about the Bechdel test, but there is nothing of depth here, save for her inner sadness about this failed relationship with a character not even present in the book. I can’t connect with her; yes, she loves archaeology, but whyyyyyy? And then, perhaps to hide this lack of depth, the authors decided to make her over-the-top snarky–but for seemingly no reason. This is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine, which I find especially prevalent in TV and film writing. (Superhero movies being some of the worst offenders.) You have a weak female character? Cover that shit up with stupid one liners and a hearty dose of bitchiness! It’s lazy writing.

So suffice it to say that I’m mega disappointed by this book, especially since I picked it up looking for something fun and different. I’m a book person who knows a few things about the industry–I know how difficult publishing is, and especially with a smaller, non-traditionally published book, a bad review or two can sink the boat. (Not that I assign my reviews that much weight! Not by far!!!) But I have to stay true to my real opinions, and I cannot recommend this book. 😦

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