Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Just Did My First Review. Was I Too Harsh?

The other day, I received a message on Reddit with an offer. The offer was simple: a review for a review. I read/review his, he reads/reviews mine.

I hope he comes through, by the way, because I can't help but wonder if he will.

Anyways, the book in entitled Agents of Light and Shade by S.L. Pineda, and follows the lives of come-and-gone super hero Captain Splendor and the recently released from prison Anton. It takes the traditional comic book-like Super Hero/Super Villain and gives them real, human qualities. The heroes, as it turns out, are flawed; while the villains are not just 100% pure evil people. 

My review from Amazon is below.

"Agents of Light and Shade" stars two meta-humans, Captain Splendor and Eclipser, in a low point in their lives.

The story starts out talking about how Anton, AKA the Eclipser, has just been released from prison after a fifteen year sentence. Meanwhile, Craig, AKA Captain Splendor, is shown to have a troubling gambling addiction and has turned to endorsements from pizza commercials to support himself.

Although it is noted the Captain Splendor is a "super hero" and the Eclipser a "former super villain," it is easy to believe the opposite in the beginning of the story. For most of the story, it is nearly impossible to see the "villain" in Anton/Eclipser, especially when he notes that he "plays by the rules" of Super Hero/Super Villain encounters. Meanwhile, Captain Splendor, a supposed super hero, is characterized as a being with many flaws. He is addicted to gambling (though we never see this first hand; we are only told this through the story of him attempting to repay his debts), he is messy, he mooches off his friends, and of course, we see how truly weak and moral-less he is as the story progresses (as in, unlike Anton, he doesn't follow the rules, and he even breaks out of his "Super Hero" role a few times throughout the story).

What I liked: "Agents of Light and Shade" tells the story of typical Television and Comic Book-like Heroes and Villains and humanizes them. Super Heroes are assigned flaws while Super Villains, as it turns out, are not all bad people. Heroes hold grudges, they gamble, and as it turns out, they're very flaky people. Villains, as we find out, stick together, work hard, and do what they can to support their families.

What I didn't like: The story is filled to the brim with cliches and unnecessary metaphors. Granted, in this novel, they are necessary to some extent, since the entire story is about traditional super heroes and villains. That said, they do not just appear in relation to the characters themselves; they also appear too often in the writing style. For example, there's a portion in the story where the author is characterizing Craig's mom. The author characterizes her with a paragraph talking about how "if you gathered all the bitchy women in the world and had them vote for their top ten favorite living bitches and then had those bitches vote for their favorite bitch, Matilda's name would not come up. She would lose to someone famous like, say, Imelda Marcos or Barbra Streisand. No one with a functioning brain would think of Craig's mother as their favorite anything." The author attempts to be humorous, though to me, the cliches and metaphors often come off as unnecessary.

Also, there are too many characters. Some of them are important, some not. There is a side story about Sara and a cook in her husband's restaurant, Matias. Sara is an ex-super villain and ex-man. In the main story, her only real purpose was to give Anton a job following his prison sentence, to show that "Villains stick together". While the back story is interesting, parts of it do not make sense (for example, I'm still not really clear on why she entered into a sexual relationship with Matias), it is not necessary to the main story, and it almost feels as if it were written in the story to shoehorn in a moral lesson on transsexuals.

Overall: This is an interesting story if the whole "Super Hero/Super Villain" culture appeals or interests you. It is a unique take on the traditional "Hero saves the day, Villain goes down" story that features both humans and villains.

Also: I don't know if this is appropriate here, but the description for the story is took clunky.

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