REVIEW: A Darkness Shattered by Bruce Clothier

A Darkness ShatteredRating: 2 out of 5 stars, Genre: Zombies, Pages: 204, Reading Level: Easy

Book Description:

Expect something very different in this gripping story of the zombie apocalypse. This detailed and fast-paced thriller gives you a roller coaster ride with alternating scenes of tense, exciting action and heartbreaking pain. Michael Nelson’s world has suddenly been ripped apart when he loses both parents to the outbreak and finds himself completely alone with nobody to turn to for help. Armed with only a shotgun and his wits, he steps into an insane new world where he meets and befriends Abigail Martin, a tiny girl with luminous blue eyes. She has been on her own for a week struggling to survive and as their friendship blossoms, they grow to depend on each other for much more than simple survival. Michael and Abby each discover latent abilities within themselves that offer a final hope for the embattled remnants of humanity.

A Darkness Shattered was a difficult read for me. The basic storyline is good, but I had several issues with the book.

There are a good number of typos and grammatical errors, enough to be distracting. Unfortunately, Clothier also hit a few of my pet peeves, two of them grammatical. The incorrect use of contractions such as ‘they’re’ and ‘their’ is one. Another is ‘John and me’ versus ‘John and I.’ Maybe this is a little trivial but it bothers me. It’s not all over the place, but whenever I see these errors, I cringe.

Another thing that bothered me was the military cliché-

He fit the description of what one would expect a colonel to look like. He was a grizzled looking man with hard eyes and an unlit cigar clenched in his teeth.

I admit I rolled my eyes when I read that one. Maybe it’s because my father is a colonel. Maybe it’s because I am married to a military member. Maybe it’s because I have spent most of my 40+ years in a military environment. Maybe all of these reasons are why I was completely annoyed by those two sentences. I just cannot stand that silly cliché.

Another problem I had is the long, long, long paragraphs. Sometimes they are a whole page long. And there is so much exposition that it gets to the point of info dump that really isn’t that relevant to the story. The only author I have read that successfully pulled this off was Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Clothier is not Marquez.

Also, there seemed to be some issues with details. For example:

…After knocking a second time, he tried the doorknob. It was unlocked so he slowly opened the door and looked into a well-organized kitchen.
“Hello!” He called out cautiously. “Is anybody home?”
Silence greeted him. He stepped into the house and waited for Herb to come in before closing the door. He stood in a utility room with a washer, dryer and furnace. Everything was tidy and in looked to be in its place. The utility room connected to a neat and orderly kitchen with a small table and two chairs. “He moved into the kitchen, noticing that his footsteps sounded unnaturally loud in the still house. P26

Ignoring the editing issue, the extra ‘in,’ does anything else about this scene sound off?

How does Michael get into the utility room? When he opened the door, he ‘looked into the kitchen.’ I assume that means the door opens into the kitchen, right? If it doesn’t, and that is an incorrect assumption on my part, shouldn’t that be explained better? Does Michael step into the kitchen and then step to the side into the utility room? Possible, but shouldn’t that be clarified? Is this really a fault with the reader, or the writer?

It seems like an insignificant detail. I argue it is not, for two reasons. 1. I shouldn’t have to stop to figure something out. 2. This is not the only occurrence of this type of vagueness.

There were other situations that made me stop and go back because I thought I had read something incorrectly, or misunderstood something. For example, when Michael first meets Abby, he notes:

She was probably five or six years younger than he was, and over a foot shorter than him. p31

Ack! Look, just tell me how old she looked. I don’t want to have to go back and check what age Michael is. If he’s a teenager, that puts Abby at about 10? Aiming a loaded gun at him. Okay. But then later he starts to become attracted to her. That’s when I started thinking maybe he was in his early twenties. Still living at home? And his dad calling to give him instructions? At the beginning, it is clearly stated that Michael is 16 but I didn’t remember. So the attraction thing wasn’t so gross, but what was the point? Why was it important that she looked younger than she really was? And that she was dirty and wearing clothes too big for her, which made her look even younger? It served no purpose. So why not just make her look like a normal teenager? Or say she looked like a teenager but he couldn’t really guess because of all the dirt and baggy clothes?

Again I ask you, is this the reader’s fault or the writer’s? If it happens several times in the book, doesn’t that point to the writer?

Bear with me for this next one. The point of view changes frequently. Not a big issue, but the way it changes is interesting and I haven’t decided whether or not it is a good thing.

The point of view changes once the reader comes into contact with the other person. So you have the main storyline that is from Michael’s point of view. Then he may come into contact with Person A, at which point the point of view changes until he comes into contact with Person B, at which point the point of view changes again to Person C, then back to Person B, then to Person D, back to person B, then to Person E, etc. until finally getting back to Michael.

The problem I had with these transitions is that the formatting was irregular. Sometimes they were separated by chapters. Sometimes by paragraph. Sometimes they changed mid-paragraph. Again, I found it distracting. Am I alone? You could argue this is an omniscient narrator, but it’s a little different and I don’t know quite how to explain it.

Finally, and the deal breaker for me…

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

Keep reading…

Blah Blah Blah

Blah Blah Blah

The main characters turn out to be telepathic.

Way to ruin a good story. There were some parts that seemed a little paranormalish, but nothing too offensive. For example, out of body feeling, intuition, experiencing something in slo mo. But outright telepathy? Blech!

To be fair, the description includes- Michael and Abby each discover latent abilities within themselves that offer a final hope for the embattled remnants of humanity- although I didn’t necessarily think that meant paranormal abilities. I was thinking along the lines of hunting, tracking, mad weapons skills, etc. You decide.

END OF SPOILER

I hate giving bad reviews to independent authors but this one is not likely to affect his rating much. He has enough five and four star ratings that my two star rating isn’t really going to make much of a difference. And remember, the story isn’t that bad, it’s the other stuff that convinced me to lower the rating. If I hadn’t written this review, I probably would have left it at three, but after listing all my problems with it, I couldn’t justify three stars.

Reviewed by Christina
June 12, 2014

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