Monday, November 17, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Shade Day One

So is Hailey Maniates losing her mind? Or is what hulking homeless man Melchi saying true? Is she being stalked by a Mulo? Or is it all in her head? That's the basic question at the heart of John Olson's latest thriller, Shade.

The story starts out with a bang, with a young Melchi losing his mentor and master to the Mulo. And then we're off and running. Hailey gets attacked by something in her research lab, only to have a fully grown Melchi save her. Soon Hailey is running for her life, unsure of who she can trust or what exactly is happening to her. Melchi seems so sure of himself that an ancient evil is trying to claim her. But can he possibly be right when his stories and theories are so outlandish?

I have to admit, I didn't have a clue what was going on half the time. The backstory of Melchi's beliefs are never fully explained. But that's okay, because the ambiguity works so well with the story. The tension Hailey feels is also pretty believable. She wants to trust Melchi and is instinctively drawn to the gentle giant, but there are so many competing theories for what's happening to her that she can't be sure.

Olson also did a great job of putting the reader into Melchi's strange world. The first time you encounter the full grown Melchi, looking for his lost backpack, he doesn't make a lot of sense. His unique, slightly warped belief system slowly unfolds throughout the book. It's a gradual pace which really helps. It doesn't overwhelm the reader.

My only complaint, and it's minor, is that Olson might have been able to ratchet up the tension a little better. He tries to do so by calling Hailey's experiences into doubt in the early going. Is she suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or was she really almost attacked by some boogey man? But this tension disappears about a third of the way through the book. While Hailey questions what's happening to her, the reader doesn't. Olson tries to restoke those fires toward the end by casting Melchi in a less than positive light. But by that time, we've spent so much time in Melchi's head that it isn't that effective. If Olson had done this earlier, perhaps immediately after Hailey's doubts about her sanity, it might have been a little more effective.

As it is, Olson has put together a thrilling ride through an ancient battle between good and evil, one that brings the reader through harrowing near misses and some great personal salvation.

Go and see what the other tourists have to say:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise



Though the book is fast-paced, I didn't read it all in one sitting, which is what I tend to do with books that grab me by the throat and won't let go.

I did wonder what Olson was doing with the whole "maybe Melchi is the baddie" routine. It felt flat.

On the other hand, if a reader sticks around to the end, I think the best part of the book is the last fourth or so.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Interesting, Keanan. I thought the end was rushed. Plus, I actually thought "Melchi is the baddie" added a twist that was effective. I knew he wasn't the baddie, but I found it plausible that Hailey might think so. Actually I thought it was more plausible than that she would feel romantically drawn to the smelly, hairy guy. LOL