Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Review of Quests of Shadowind: Sky Drifter, L. A. Miller

 (Revised Edition; Millhouse Press, 2013), ISBN: 978-0-615-43925

As ubiquitous as computers have become, and with the promise of Virtual Reality for everyone always just upon the horizon, books like this one are bound to become ubiquitous as well.
Aimed at teens, this first book in the Quests of Shadowind series follows a brother and sister team and their friends and enemies through a journey in a computer-generated world in which they one day wake up.
Reminiscent of films like Tron, Lawnmower Man, and The Matrix trilogy in its exploration of alternate realms of existence generated by computer and inhabited by brave and daring humans who have nothing left to explore but the wireless world of cyberspace, Sky Shifter never really takes off and pays back the IOUs of its clever premise.
Despite its Revised Edition status the novel feels like a tight plot begging for better-drawn characters and less stiff dialogue, like a brand-new house filled with old and ill-matched furniture. A draft more than a finished product. There are times that the book dances on the edge of generating some compelling mood and atmosphere but it never sustains (ironically, it is in the scenes with only adults that succeed best, despite the fact that the book is aimed at the brass ring of the teen market).
Much in the book is cliché and under-explored, which becomes a kind of Catch-22 situation. A little more time spent creating unique characters with some depth would have been well worth it. There is very little to differentiate this book from its competitors.
In addition to its predictability and stock characters, the novel suffers most from dialogue by the teens that is banal. The “hero” of the story, Logan, seems more interested than eating than anything else, and his journey to problem-solver and leader lacks a sufficiently interesting arc to allow for any buy-in from the reader. His nemesis is the neighborhood bully, a device in our bullying-conscious world that seems more like an add-on selling point for the times than an organic part of the story.
There are two more books in this series, but I felt no compulsion to continue when the first book ended. Despite its electronic wizardry and computer world, Shadowind is not a place I care to further explore.