Saturday, August 29, 2015

Answering Review Request: Burd: The Abduction

Roy House asked me to read his novel "Burd: The Abduction". It is a science fiction comedy that focuses on a rooster man named "Burd" who was altered from a standard egg by aliens. I will examine plot, characters and polish, and then assign a grade.

The book starts out good. There is this pair of aliens on a routine mission. Their dialogue is kinda fun, there is interesting, non intrusive (i.e. no "As You Know" stuff) world building, and Burd is created in a direct and effective manner.
The problem is one of tone. It starts off as this kooky Rule of Funny story but then tries to have a serious plot line without changing anything else.   

For instance, the aliens create Burd for fun ("you know, we've been talking about building a creature from all the leftover material from about a dozen experiments") and engage in Seinfeldian Conversation. Following this is Maria planning a "flaming bag of poop" prank in response to a perceived prank on herself and Viejo Jorge reminiscing on how his previous wife was a literal magic using witch because she would regularly drag him away from a bar after he drunk himself stupid.
The rest of the story is about Nazi (and not the wacky kind), Lizard Men that eat people, their conspiracy to turn WWII into a covert operation to abduct people for this reason  (i.e. the Holocaust victims), and the "Who" or the Gray aliens, have this prophecy of using Burd as a super soldier to beat the lizards. The fact that all of this comes up in the later parts of the story is jarring.

There isn't much of an initial conflict and so there is nothing driving the story forward. It's just a bunch of events happening. There is something interesting and dynamic brewing at the end, but that's the end. The beginning and middle is just "this stuff happened" sort of thing. The progression between makes sense but none of them are sufficiently developed. All of them would make for fine stories on their own but all of them are squished together in little more one hundred pages. I think that Mr.House is only scratching the surface of the potential with this plotline.
The Maria/Dusty/Jeff love triangle, for instance, is only present in three scenes and mentioned in passing a fourth time. Really there's hardly a love triangle at all because by the time it is set up, it is resolved and Jeff quickly becomes more interested in someone else. The circus is another. The group introduce themselves, get jobs, start advertising, and then a riot breaks out over a license to operate a hot air balloon which wrecks everything, gets the circus arrested and Burd on the run. Like the book itself, it's opened and closed without a main event.

 There is no satisfying ending. In fact, there is no ending at all. It's not even a cliffhanger. It's just some ominous words and the story stops. I don't understand the logic for it.  I imagine that book 2 will be much better because the conflict is established and will be further developed through its length. Book 1 is just introductions and random events.

There are some funny parts. Some clever moments. These are the gems of the story so I don't want to spoil them by listing them here.


The characters are pretty thin. I can't tell any of the Greys apart by their behavior, except for one because he is a defector from decadence. The Lizard Men are similar.

The Main characters, in my opinion, are not any better. Maria is a nice girl but beyond that there is little more than "talent as an aerialist".  Dusty is a standard cowboy in the teenage version.  Viejo Jorge is a Dirty Old Man who relies on Crosses The Line Twice for comedy. Jeff comes across to me as a walking conflict ball because he regularly acts like a jerk, the other mains have no reason to include him, and he's a sleeper agent through a complicated backstory.


There is where the story losses the most points. There are a lot of grammar and formatting problems, and even some in vocabulary. Mr.House told me that he sent me the "cleaned up version" but the problems persist.
 A non-exhaustive list:
1. Dialogue is lacking quotes on one end.
2. A character's thoughts are not set apart from narration. This makes it confusing for me to read and it is jarring to shift between narrator and character.
3. "Cannibal" is used in place of "Carnivore".
4. Chapter titles appear at the end of pages or the middle instead of the start of the next one. There is no uniformity to them.

It is hard for me to believe that this story was revised. It looks like a first draft.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Burd" a D+ (I liked reading it but the quality is low)

No comments:

Post a Comment