Friday, March 16, 2012

Unexpected Applause: Eclipse

Disclaimer: This is not a case of exchanging book reviews. This is how it happened:
Back in December I won a copy of a book from Mr. Pagel and, then, promptly forgot I'd won. Well, see, the thing I was doing that won me the copy wasn't something I was doing because I was trying to win a book; I was just doing it. Therefore, the book being like a bonus, I forgot about it. Sometime later, when Briane mentioned giving books away again, I remembered, "Oh, hey, you still owe me a book!" So he sent me a copy of Eclipse (which was supposed to be signed!). It sat around for a couple or few weeks while I was reading other things (including the book that's supposed to be being reviewed (but I haven't finished that one, yet, because it's being a real struggle)), but, once I finished The Pigman, I needed a book a could carry back-and-forth to school, and I needed a book to review, since I knew I wasn't (am not) going to finish the other book anytime soon. So I grabbed Eclipse. After I started it, Briane mentioned that he was reading The House on the Corner. Of course, he didn't know I was reading Eclipse (and, I'm pretty sure, he still doesn't know, well, until this goes live). So, really, it's happenstance that we read each other's books at roughly the same time.

That being said, Eclipse by Briane Pagel is a book that is definitely worth a read. Maybe. Well, okay, not maybe. Some of you definitely should read it, and others probably shouldn't. Before I get into that, though, let's talk about the technicals.

My impression of Briane from things he's said on his blog about his writing is that he doesn't do a lot of editing. He writes for fun, and he seems to write very quickly, and it makes me think he doesn't really spend a lot of time going back over his work. Let me be clear, this is just my impression of his style. Maybe he's really into editing; I don't actually know. However, given my impression, I'd say that Eclipse is in really good shape overall. The biggest issue is that there are missing words every so often. I'm not gonna touch the punctuation, because the book has a very stream-of-consciousness feel to it. The punctuation fits the writing style, so it's fairly non-traditional. There may be mistakes, but there's no way to tell. At any rate, other than the various places where words got dropped out, there's nothing to really jar the reader out of the story. I'd give this part an A-.

The story itself is a bit tough. Not in the reading part (it's quite easy to read), but the story itself is difficult, and this is why I say it's probably not a book for everyone. For instance, I would never suggest this book to my wife. Why? It deals with child abuse, and that's just a difficult topic for many people to deal with. Mr. Pagel is not graphic or gratuitous with it, though, so it's not an issue from that standpoint. That doesn't change the subject matter, though, so it's probably better to know that going in. And it's not clear that the book deals with child abuse from the blurb on the cover, which makes me also think that I've approached the book from a different perspective than even the author. (When I get around to interviewing Mr. Pagel, I'll see if I can figure that out.)

On the surface, the story is about an astronaut drifting alone in space. However, as you read through the story, it becomes clear that this may or may not be true. And this is why the central story, to me, is about the abuse. In almost all cases of child abuse, there is some sort of break from reality. To the child, there is no abuse. At least, not if it's abuse that has been ever present. It's just a part of life, and the child, or the spouse, can't distinguish the difference between their life and the lives of everyone else. Often, children are suprised, even shocked, to find out that other people don't live the same way. It's why children don't come forward and say, "my parent hits me."

That, really, is all I can say about the story. At some point, Claudius has a break from reality. I know where I believe that break occurred. That is, I know which parts of the story I believe are "fact" and which parts are the fantasies conjured up by Claudius in his need to escape his father. I don't believe everyone will draw the same conclusions I have, and I think that's what Mr. Pagel intended. Heck, maybe he hasn't even decided which parts are "true" and which parts are not. Although, he probably actually does know and just enjoys everyone else guessing and trying to figure it out.

This is, however, another reason the book is probably not for everyone. Most people like their stories all wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end, and this is not a book that will do that for you. It's a story that will linger, and you will find yourself wondering about it at odd moments. In fact, I think it's the kind of story that, if you go back and read it again, you will probably come to completely different conclusions about it than you did the first time, and, I think, this is also something that would make Pagel smile.

Overall, this is a fascinating little story. There's only one scene that I think is forced, and I can't say why, because it might alter your perception of the story, and I think this is one book where the reader needs to go in as tabula rasa as possible. If you can deal with the child abuse, and you can deal with the author leaving you to figure out what's really going on, you should give it a read. My final grade is in the B to B+ range; although, it would have hit, at least, the A- range if not for that one scene. But for $0.99, you really can't lose. It's a quick read. It will suck you in as you try to figure out what's what, and, then, you'll be finished before you realize it and want to know more. Seriously, I just read the book two weeks ago, and I'm already considering going back and reading it again, and I rarely, rarely re-read. So that's saying something.

Since we're already talking about Briane, I thought I'd plug his Star Wars blogathon thing again. BUT WAIT! There's more! To make it more interesting, Briane has added writing contests! Go here to read all about it. The deadline for the first contest is March 25. You get 100 points just for entering, and the winner gets cool prizes. And remember, tell him I sent you so that you (we) can get 50 MORE points! Go now! Hopefully, if I can find some time to breathe, I'll have my entry up on Monday. I'm breaking the rules, though, because, well, I have something special I want to share, and it doesn't quite meet the guidelines. In true Briane Pagel style, he's both told me that I must follow the rule to the letter and that I should go right and break the rules as much as I want.

Not quite a note:
Briane also tagged me in this new lucky 7 meme thing that's going around. He was honest about his motivation, though, which was nice: he just wants to see some bit of Brother's Keeper, since it's not available yet. However, I'm gonna cheat on this one, too. Meaning I'm not going to page 77 or whatever the rules for the thing are. I don't really believe in page numbers since there are so many factors that can change the number of pages in a book. So I'm just gonna go by word count. Sort of. At any rate, here's 7 lines or so from Keeper. Maybe this will be enough so that Briane will believe I'm, at least, working on it.

The screen door slammed shut followed by the impact of a body into the backdoor and the crash of the door into the refrigerator. Tom dashed through the kitchen behind Claire.
Hey!” she shouted after him as he hit the stairs. The sounds of his feet paused, “If you break that window again opening the door like that, it's coming out of your allowance!”
I know, Mom!”
His feet resumed pounding up the stairs. A few moments later, the sounds of toys crashing onto the floor pattered overhead.
In the midst of the hail storm happening on the floor of the boys' room, the front screen door thundered closed followed by more footsteps pounding through the home.


  1. Sounds interesting, but rough. (Eclipse)

    Your 7 are good! I wonder who came in second?

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  2. Aargh, you keep tempting me with more books to read.

  3. First, the "Brothers Keeper" tease. I'm glad you put in a Tom bit, as Tom is my favorite character from "House On The Corner." Probably because he reacts exactly the way I would to what's happening around him. I would be eaten alive with envy in that situation. Plus, the bit is good and works as a teaser trailer almost.

    Which means I'm mad at you, because you're spending your time blogging instead of writing that book and getting it out.

    But then, how can I be mad when you give such a good review?

    On the issue of what's true and what's not: ("Heck, maybe he hasn't even decided which parts are "true" and which parts are not. Although, he probably actually does know and just enjoys everyone else guessing and trying to figure it out.")

    That's been something raised by every reader of "Eclipse" who ever bothered to review or contact me about it.

    Poems and novels, I believe, should stand on their own, and so I make it a rule to not discuss whether some, all, or none of "Eclipse" actually is happening to Claudius.

    Your take on the book is intriguing, though-- you're the first reviewer to pay this much attention to Claudius' childhood.

    Overall, I give your review an A+. I'm extremely gratified at the reaction to "Eclipse," which, after all, started out as a serialized story that I was doing to make our now 19-year-old "The Boy" happy.

    You're also pretty much right about the editing. I try, I really do. But I am a HORRIBLE editor and that's because (a) I read them on a screen. I should print things and read them. And (b) I tend to, as I edit, fill in the blanks, so to speak: I know what I WISH I wrote, and so I see it there.

    In real life, when I have briefs and such due, I often assign someone in my firm to read them through and catch things I didn't.

    Someday, I'll probably just hire an editor. Anyone want the job?

  4. Thanks for your honesty on the book reveiw. Always better than a blanket I loved it. Nice 7.

  5. I though Eclipse was brilliant as well. Great stuff.

    I like your lucky 7 excerpt. I had worried mine would be an incomprehensible mess, but aside from a few granny smoking weed jokes, nothing was too weird.

    Same for yours. It feels like it was good place to start a scene. I'll be looking forward to the next book in the series when it's finally ready to hit the world.

  6. Those are a great 7 lines, and I'm glad to hear you are indeed working on it (maybe!).

    I'm fascinated by the brilliance demonstrated by Briane's story. Even if it's rough, I'm intrigued by the concept. I love stories like that, that unravel into something deeper.

  7. Grumpy: pfft

    Michael: yeah, it's a good one.

    Shannon: Oh... that was Ruth. You only didn't get to know because I ran out of lines.

    Sarah P: That's the point, right?

    Briane: You know, my wife keeps telling me that, too. That I'd be getting more accomplished with Brother's Keeper if I would cut back on the blogging. But I only post (usually) twice a week as it is!
    As for Tom... all I can say is that there is a lot in store for him in the next book.

    I'd take on your editing but for two things:
    1. you don't really want me to, because I'd have to take time out of Brother's Keeper to do it
    2. I'd have to charge to take the time out of Brother's Keeper to do it.

    Nancy: Yeah, I hate all those "I love it!" reviews. You can't tell if people are just saying it or if they mean it.

    Rusty: It was brilliant. Those of us that have read should have a discussiong about it.

    ABftS: Briane's story is indeed something more than the general story that just spells everything out for the reader. I think it's one of those that has almost as many answers as there are people that read it.