Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review of Warren Hately's "Zephyr: Phase One"

    I think over a week I spent on this book, the first I picked up after declaring I would read no less than 25 books this summer. It was as if I opened my door to a new life and found a wall of snow there that I had to wallow through for days to find the world outside. Now I can blame a few components to my slow reading time such as my distaste for the narrative, my quest to catch up with Game of Thrones and my attraction to another book. However, the truth to it is I could not understand the book, and here's why:

     There is no doubt in my mind that Warren Hately can weave magic with words. He is certainly skilled at stringing together bold sentences, but almost to a fault. The high concentration of these overly wordy lines often distracts from the story. I can cite multiple instances where entire paragraphs consisted of only one sentence, which was barely related to the plot. Moreover, this style of writing bares no resemblance to the main character's attitude. A blue-collar closet superhero from New York who has the vocabulary of a British professor mixed with a 12-year old gamer.
     Honestly, Zephyr is one of the most difficult to like protagonists I have ever encountered. While his wit and humor had me laughing, they were only drowned by his racism, ableism, homophobia, and sexism. I had just as much trouble trying to deduce how Hately is opinionated on some of these hot button issues. He comes from another part of the world entirely, which also factors in to how odd it was that he wrote a novel set in the U.S., but flavored in his native Australian language. “Colours” and “bloodies” abound. If an American man from Queens with this temper heard another New Yorker speaking this way, he'd sock him. Back on topic though, it is difficult to get past the "Afro-Americans" and "Fags" thrown around all the time. Whether or not Hately understands these terms are offensive or is acutely self-aware, the book reeks of them.
      And the plot. It does have its unique qualities, but that is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, the last few chapters, which are generally reserved for a climax, tell almost a completely different story fit for a book of it's own. 
     Another qualm I faced was the overabundance of characters. I counted 40+ superhero names within the book, all making random appearances. It was such a rough time trying to learn whom characters are when they show up randomly and in such large numbers. Perhaps the only secondary characters I got to know were the ones with the dialogue tags, "the gay hero says" or "a distinctly Afro-American voice." Ah, just a mess. And the attempt at putting heroes at the level of celebrities was just as poor. So many random celebrities were name dropped in the first chapter that I felt the author did all his research by reading People Magazine.

     I do think there is a possibility this deconstruction of the superhero genre could be groundbreaking and brilliant, but the execution was beyond me. I will not be holding on to this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment