I have a habit of showing the opening paragraphs of a novel, so I’ll do that again for this month’s tour book, Beyond the Reflection’s Edge.
Nathan watched his tutor peer out the window. She was being paranoid again. That guy following them in the Mustang had really spooked her. “Chill out, Clara. He doesn’t know what room we’re in.”
She slid the curtains together, casting a blanket of darkness across the motel room. “He parked near the lobby entrance. We’d better pack up and leave another way.” She clicked on a corner table lamp. The pale light seemed to deepen the wrinkles on her face and hands. “How much more time do you need?”
Nathan sat on the bed nearer the window, a stack of pillows between his back and the wall, and tapped away at his laptop. “Just a couple of minutes.” He looked up at her and wined. “Dad’s slide rule must’ve been broken. It took almost an hour to balance the books.”
Clara slid her sweater sleeve up an inch and glared at her wristwatch. Nathan knew that look all too well. His tutor’s steely eyes and furrowed brow meant the Queen of Punctuality was counting the minutes. They were cutting it close, and they still had to get the reports bound at Kinko’s before they could meet his parents at the performance hall for the company’s quarterly meeting. And who could tell what delays that goon in the prowling Mustang might cause? His father had noticed the guy this morning before he left, and he looked kind of worried, but that could’ve been from the bean and onion burrito he had eaten for breakfast.
(I hunted for a link for the whole first chapter, but I couldn’t find one.)
Does this first page hook you, the reader? What do we learn about the characters and the situation?
Well, we have a boy, Nathan, whose family is wealthy enough that he has a tutor and a laptop. He seems to do the books for his dad’s business, and they’re staying at a motel. The tutor, Clara, cares about punctuality and about the guy in the Mustang. Nathan hasn’t seen his parents since that morning, when his dad seemed worried about the guy. If we should all be worrying about the guy (and we find out within a very few pages that we should, indeed, be taking him seriously), I’m not feeling the tension in this opening.
Nathan is obviously somewhere between the ages of being old enough to do the books and still having a tutor, and I get a reasonably decent impression of Nathan within the next few pages.
Also missing, in my opinion, is any real hint of Clara’s age or any other description other than wearing a sweater. Clara, who remains a fairly major character, turns out to be a woman old enough to be Nathan’s grandmother. When that came out, quite a distance into the story, I had to mentally revise all the scenes thus far to bring them into line with a woman that much older than what I’d assumed an undescribed tutor would be.
The whole story is rather surreal, but you know what? It’s that kind of novel! Just imagine characters crossing from one dimension to another using a mirror, a camera, and a violin–it can’t help but be rather surreal!
I finished the book Monday night, and I hear that Book Two, Echoes From the Edge, is already out.
What do I find typical of Bryan Davis, the author? A couple of things. This is very complicated inter-dimensional stuff, and you don’t exactly learn about it in school. And while I’m willing to suspend disbelief for a novel or ten, the flood of fake-technical terms here kept pounding me. Instead of the author allowing me to just step into that dimension and accept it, I felt he kept trying to explain the unexplainable.
The Dragons in Our Midst series that I’d read previously did much of the same thing, for younger readers. I guess I prefer the stories I read not to continuously challenge my suspension of disbelief.
Then again, I ‘m not the target age of this novel (13-16?), so take that comment with a shaker of salt. Having the characters bop back and forth between three dimensions–with suspicions of a fourth–and meeting their other selves from the other dimensions was pretty weird. That might be a compliment. I’m not sure. But I’ll definitely pass this novel on to folks with teens and I’ll be interested in hearing their reactions later on.