Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Answering Review Request: Holindrian

Macaulay Christian asked me to read his novel "Holindrian". It is a science fiction novel with many plots and themes but is chiefly concerned with a war of independence. I will examine plot, character and polish, and then assign a grade.


PLOT

This story has many plotlines. 1.)There is the flight from Earth due to environmental degradation, 2.) the settlement of a new planet which itself has other plotlines like the growth of the Balutu and a war with the savage inhabitants, 3.) the rise and fall of human civilization four times over fifty thousand years, 4.) the Balutu taking over the world to break the cycle and finally 5.) the world-wide revolt against the Balutu, thus leading to their fall. Actually, there is a sixth plotline, which is the frame narrative of the historian talking about all the previous ones. In my personal opinion, this historian did a bad job.


All of these plotlines are interwoven with each other. Not just by the chapter but within chapters with only a little bar of blank space as a section divider. There are time skips back and forth, as well as location jumps. Different characters are involved. It's confusing. To be frank, it sounds like the abridged version of a five book epic series. If such a series existed, then I think it would be great because what is here is great.

I have never seen a better case for Grey and Grey Morality than this story. The Baltutu's justification for taking over the world is that they are saving humans from themselves. In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves is a trope and here it is proven. The Baltutu have spent fifty thousand years watching humans drive themselves to near extinction four times and in different ways. By the time the Baltutu make their decision, humans are on the verge of wrecking their second planet. It is really hard to argue with Anshargal when he says conquest is necessary.

When the war of independence is brewing, there is a scene between two human viceroys where the loyalist is practically begging the revolutionary not to do this because they both know the war is going to have a tremendous death toll. Even as the morality scale appears to shift to Black and White with Anshargal becoming increasingly vicious and Holidrian is praised as the hero of humanity, there is still an undercurrent that Holidrian is the one making a mistake.

In fact, there is a faction in Holindrian's army that takes his "Freedom is good" philosophy further than he does and decides that all authority figures are bad, including Holindrian. Yep, Holindrian inadvertently inspired the creation of Bomb Throwing Anarchists.

The structure of Baltutu society is also something that I found interesting. The idea is to create small, self-sufficient, and subsistence-based communities. In this way, the Baltutu prevent humans from repeating previous mistakes (it is alluded that these mistakes are environmental degradation, chemical weapons of mass destruction, and over-indulgent commercialism). In order to keep them settled and content, the Baltutu ensure that all their lives are entirely hand-to-mouth. Art, literature, music, anything that is not strictly necessary to keep them alive is forbidden. They believe they have breed out violence, crime etc. by treating humans like cattle. In later scenes, the reader is shown the other side of this, and how heavy-handed, oppressive, and indeed, violent, it is.

The chief failing of this book, In my opinion, is that it is underdeveloped. As I said, it sounds like five stories smushed together. How the Balutu grew into their abilities is not shown. How they attempted to prevent humans from destroying themselves without resorting to conquest gets a single line. The conquest itself only has its end game described. There are several scenes between Enkirus, the guy who led the flight form Earth, and an alien guy who helped him, but they are so underdeveloped that I don't see the point of them. Holindrian doesn't seem to care that the humans he is freeing will likely destroy themselves again because there is no space allotted to him to either worry or prepare for it.

There's also a thing that bugs me. I'm not sure whether or not to call it a "failing". The Battle of Gathbiyya is basically a carbon copy of The Battle of Gettysburg, second day, Defense of Little Round Top. It includes the general situation of "you cannot retreat because you are the end of the line", the fishhook pattern, the bayonet charge inspired by a lack of ammo, and even the "right wheel forward" command. On Tvtropes, we call this a a Whole Plot Reference because it is far too big to be a shout out.


The ending, with this in mind, is only halfway satisfying. The premise is telling the story of "Holindrian's War" and that it does that, but it still feels incomplete.


CHARACTERS

In keeping with the book's underdeveloped nature, there are characters who could be more than what they are. For instance, Masschuel basically joins Holindrian in his war because following him is what he does. It's even on his tombstone. The Baltutu, despite a lone section describing how they all fit into their self-created pantheon, are mainly distinctive based on where they fit on the Anshargal -Holindrian scale. Anshargal is the war hawk, the oppressor, the Necessarily Evil Evil Overlord while Holindrian is the wise freedom preacher and rebel leader. Some characters, such as Oda, feel more like plot props or perhaps more like The Face of a cast herd rather than their own character.

POLISH

The arrangement of the plot lines baffle me.
The spelling and grammar is ok; I recall a handful of errors but nothing major.
The language choice is pretentious. This is at its worst in the beginning, where it is describing the flight from Earth. As an example, the narration states the Earth deliberately creates a mass destruction event as an act of suicide because it prefers to burn instead of existing in such a deathly state.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Holindrian" a C

This has been a free review request. The author requested an honest review, so I provided one.
Click here for the previous book review (for fun): Fellowship of Fantasy: Fantastic Creatures
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Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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