Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: Mind and Body

Mind + Body, by Aaron Dunlap is a fast-paced scroller.

I'm currently reading a novel, some webfiction, and lots of nonfiction, but I tore through this novel. It's 400+ pages in PDF, but it sure didn't feel that long. It's a simple mystery/action plot - a high school senior tracking down all the weird shit that happens to him after his Marine Corps father dies.

At first it felt similar to Doctorow's Little Brother - the teenager thrust into a conspiracy too large for him to see its end, a fairly straight-forward love interest, etc. The more I read, however, the less alike they felt. Mind + Body is definitely has less to say, making it simultaneously shallower and less preachy. Mind + Body is not afraid of its simplicity - the work is less punctuated by action and fights than it is driven by them. And it works.

Unfortunately the final product reads like a draft. There are a solid handful of sentences that just aren't finished. They require 1-5 words to finish the thought, but they're just MIA. Our first person narrator definitely feels his age (though articulate), which is a plus (he says things like "the internet told me"). In the first third of the book phrases are often jarring. I'm not certain if I got used to the character or if Dunlap got used to him.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping, surprisingly real novel. It should be picked up by a publisher and marketed as a YA novel - it's good enough.


Aaron Dunlap said...

Hi, thanks for your kind words about M+B. Google Alerts informed me of this article, naturally.

I thought you'd like to know that over the last few weeks I've been working on revising the story, both for grammar (as you and several others have picked up on), but also changing a few of the plot elements to make it flow smother, and possibly fixing some of the jarring phrases. (Some examples of these might help).

It is true that over time I got a better feel for the character, and just never got around to adjusting the earlier chapters to better reflect this. Plus, at the beginning I didn't really know where the story was going to go, so I feel like it treads water for a while before it gets really interesting, which might scare away readers thinking they've picked up a high school drama.

Once this revision is complete, I'll be doing another round of query letters to try to get this bastard published so I can finally start working on the sequels. I will be posting the revised edition online, too, of course. Keep an eye out.

Thanks again.


Sebatinsky said...

Sounds good Aaron. You asked about specifics - if you'd like, I can go through it again with an editor's eye and give specific feedback on all this stuff.

I will say, it's good to know that some of my suspicions about the author's process were on target :).