Book Review: Overlook

Overlook by Jon Mollison and Thomas Plutarch. Two out of five stars. Starts with a good premise, gradually gets mired in dubious complexity, ends with an understated bang and way too much purple prose. Bah.

I am annoyed. I am very, very annoyed. To the point I (metaphorically) walled it halfway through, then skipped to the end of the eBook so I could see if the authors managed to surprise me.

The authors did not, in fact, surprise me.

The story starts strong, with Joe, our dubious hero, caught in the middle of what seems to be a convenience store robbery. A robbery he feels guilty about, because his particular paranormal talent to go unnoticed has knocked the security camera obviously offline. Bad guys threaten to do way more than just hurt the clerk and her young daughter, Joe gets involved, massive fight, innocents saved. Should be good, right?

“Tears welled up on the woman’s eyes.” This, right here, should have been my first clue.

Chapter 2, we find out superpowers exist, at least one ex-hero is in prison, other full-blown superheroes are out there, and there are some with just “a touch of Prime” that get by in a regular world with subtly enhanced abilities. Like Joe. Okay then.

Chapter 3 is where things start to get a little hinky, with a femme fatale showing up to hire Joe… and that point is 10%, where the Kindle sample ended. This is important, because soon after that point the plotting goes down, the typos go up, and I finally couldn’t take it anymore around… I think 55%.

One of the main problems in the story is the Fatale’s refusal to share information with Joe, even though she wants him to look into the death of an ex-soldier he trained. The constant “you need our help to do this” is a series of blatant manipulations that make it obvious she’s more interested in getting Joe to join her organization than in solving a man’s murder. I’d keep my distance from her too. I have, in fact, no idea why Joe falls for her, except that she’s female and breathing.

The other major problem is that in a world where superpowers are known to exist and the Director (the Big Bad) predicts exactly where untraceable Joe will be and what he’ll do, it never seems to occur to Joe that he’s being tracked by someone who can either predict the future or comes from it. I had that pegged by the second time Joe got trapped. The boat set on fire, I think. Can’t be sure. A lot of things get set on fire. And yes, the final fight of the book ends with a skyscraper set on fire. Points for consistency?

A third problem, though this may be more of a personal irritation, is that the Fatale actually turns out to be working for a Secret Church Organization and wants Joe to join them because “facing what’s really out there, you’ll need something to believe in”.

…That is one of the worst reasons to join a church, ever. Especially paired with, yet again, “we’ll only tell you what you need to know to solve a murder and who’s trying to kill you on our terms”. Hence the walling.

The authors had a good idea. But their worldbuilding needs work, their characters are surprisingly shallow, and someone needs to smack the writers over the head with spellcheck is not sufficient editing. That, and beta readers to catch the purple prose, man. Seriously.

This… this just looks so much like they put all their work and editing into the 10% Kindle sample, and let the rest go hang. It’s a cheat of a story. I’m not buying any other books by these authors.

Rrrrrggggghhhh.

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18 thoughts on “Book Review: Overlook

  1. “You need to believe in something.” Seems to be a go-to line for atheists who want to invoke the power of faith in Christ without having to bother to understand the subset of Christian denominations that are serious about following Christ. I remember the dying words of Shepard Book to Mal to ‘believe in something’, which was about as weaksauce. (Although the actor apparently made his character act as Buddhist as possible instead of Christian, which explains a lot about his weaksauce interactions with River Tam.)

    And yes, typo-hunting is tedious work, a great way to learn to hate one’s own writing, especially by the tenth pass to try to root them out.

    Sadly, a good idea is only 1% or so of a good novel. It’s why I’m saving my notebook of ‘ideas that I like and hope are good’ for after I get my first trilogy-or-maybe-quartet published, to save them for when my skills are more worthy of them.

    -Albert

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    1. You might be making a mistake on that last bit. There’s a school of thought that says ‘use the cool stuff now, not later when you might get around to it’.

      It seems to be a combination of ‘you may be over estimating the cool you have provided, or underestimating the cool your audience would like to see’ and ‘success in this requires steady generation of ideas, so trust in your future generation for the future, instead of making sure past generation is ideally preserved’.

      Of course, everyone works very differently, so there is no perfect universal process.

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      1. I’ve run into that somewhat: Book three is being a pain. But working on this has helped me learn, so hopefully it’ll all work out in the end.

        I mean, the goal is to have hundreds of novels written before I die. This is just the beginning.

        -Albert

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  2. Beta readers are a blessing if they are competent, and give useful suggestions and ideas, good if they spellcheck well, and sometimes cause you to notice errors you both missed before.

    that said… it could be that their work happens to still be popular…leading them to cut expanses

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  3. I would recommend Street Cultivation by Sarah Lin.

    Modern day xianxia, where the natural spirit energies have been democratized into a federal reserve.
    The MC is below the poverty line and trying to bootstrap himself up.
    He shows remarkable common sense, when being dragged into risky situations he tries to avoid it and hedge his bets when he can’t.

    It throws a lot of cryptic terminology at you that takes a while to untangle, but the world is interesting once you sort it out.

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  4. Ooorgh, that’s almost false advertising. There’s a series of books I have on Kindle that. Well. Some of them are pretty good endings, only the author has a completely unsatisfying end to the epilogue so it never feels like ‘the end.’ Even the last book in the series didn’t feel like ‘The End.’ It also switched MC POV with little to no warning, and spent too long rehashing events from the last book from a different POV. Interesting premise, excellent start, strong first few books, but the lack of endings was the start of my discontent, and I grew less forgiving as it was never fixed. Sigh. Not everyone is you when it comes to self publishing.

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    1. *Throws up hands* I’d think anyone who went to all the effort of writing a book in the first place, would have the self-respect to put out the absolute best work they could do. My readers have the final say on whether I wrote good stuff or not, but I always put out the best writing I am capable of at the time. Because why would you not?

      It’s that “work put in on first part, obviously not put in on rest of book” that is so very aggravating. Because the first 11% shows they’re capable of more than that… and then just didn’t do it.

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  5. Well I can’t offer any book suggestions in order to wipe away this bad experience but did run across a couple of AMVs you might like in exchange.

    Mahoutsukai no Yome AMV – Come!
    I admit I was honestly reminded of some of your works when I first watched this anime.

    Bofuri-Born for This
    The show’s like SAO; only it’s primarily slice of life with the characters just having fun by and large. Honestly one of the most entertaining animes I’ve watched in a while.

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    1. One of the fun things about Bofuri (for me at least) is that while a ton of the isekai tropes are present, more often then not they get turned on their heads (or just made fun of).

      Overpowered main character? Absolutely, but she isn’t questing for power to beat the villain or super serious anything like that. She just stumbles onto these things following her own internal (and semi-derpy) logic that leaves her pro-gamer friends constantly baffled. Both in that she did this and that the result is an even more OP character.

      “Is she done being human then?”
      “Yeah, she’s given up. Entirely.”
      “At this point, there’s no use trying to make sense of Maple.”

      As for Funimation, they’re streaming sub and dubs right now and while there are DVDs out, no idea when english ones will be released.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Watching the Ancient Magus Bride one again was some fun inspiration, but I tend to prefer the above AMV of that song.

      Bofuri, I’ve been reading that Bofuri/Shield Hero fic on FFN. Can’t find the link handy, and think the crossover category may be a little broken somehow.

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    1. /Bofuri/Shield Hero fic on FFN./
      Seen it, tentatively going through it as RotSH has a VERY different tone then Bofuri and could easily mess things up. Also a downside is that Maple came alone and half the fun of Bofuri for me was the character interactions with the rest of her guild.
      /But I tend to prefer the above AMV of that song./
      Eh it’s good but part of the reason I liked the Magus AMV so much was that not only was there good editing, but the story the song was saying meshes with the theme and story of the anime.

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      1. Yeah, after having a look at the Bofuri wiki, I suspect that Cute Shield doesn’t entirely succeed in conveying what made Bofuri interesting.

        Not all fanfic can be great, and we all start somewhere.

        A good chunk of my music listening these days is a) drowning out noise b) relaxing enough for a nap c) an attempt to use specific songs as part of my effort to figure out the plot of WIP. Come/Elan is currently penciled in for a character I’m thinking might be a focus. Something about the edits seemed ‘off’ to one of the more incomprehensible senses involved in those decisions. And I think the Mix Elan video has one or more of the characters I need some inspiration for.

        Of course, /now/ that project’s bunnies are suggesting “what if Kaede Honjo was a RL vampire”. That project’s space for virtual worlds is pretty busy with the defunct SAO, ALO, and Wormhole Xtreme Online, and NWO isn’t really that close to any of those. My sleep has been out of order, and I have a load of incoherent notes on various project seeds. (In other words, I’ve been coming up with lots of bad ideas, and haven’t been together enough to let them go and file the bits out of sight and out of mind.)

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  6. I remember buying the first two books of a series ages ago that seemed to have an interesting premise. Something about a woman who used to be a demon/vampire hunter who got out and had kids but her past is catching up? I don’t remember, it’s been a while. Either way, it sounded interesting.

    I hated it. I may or not have literally tossed it across the room. More than once. It ended up coming across as ‘Buffy grew up and had kids, now she has to get her baby into daycare on extremely short notice without paying a fortune because her past is catching up’ only worse. At least Buffy was reasonably intelligent, if very blond a lot of the time.

    Maybe I’m remembering it worse than it was, but I honestly don’t remember the title or author so I can’t say for sure.

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