Book Review – Whim: In the Beginning by Andy Close
Title: Whim: In the Beginning
Publisher: Andy Close
First Published: 2013
Genre: Science Fiction
What first struck me about this book is how excellent the prose is. The writing, for the most part, is very good. The next thing I noticed is that it needs another round of editing and revision. That’s not a knock on the book. As a first novel from a self-published author, this one stands out. Subsequent editions may correct the issues I noted when I read it (September 2013).
The novel takes the form of two stories, which seem to have little to do with one another until the end, and then the connection is more implied than explicit. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s different, which is good, and it paves the way for a sequel that may make the connection clear.
One thread of the story follows the building or a spaceship that is intended to take a sample of humanity from an environmentally depleted Earth to other stars to ensure the survival of the species. The ‘Chairman of the Board of the World Committees of the Ship’ is responsible for seeing the ship launched. He is a nasty, self-serving piece of work, but I was never entirely clear about his motivations other than that he wanted fame.
The other thread of the story follows a likeable lad by the name of Bruno. He lives in a fairly backward land with little by the way of technology, but there is a mysterious ‘barrier’ beyond which no one can go. He decides that life as a farmer (the main occupation of the place where he was born) or of a Trader (his father’s line of work) is not for him. His older sister left their village years ago, and he decides to follow in her figurative footsteps. He journeys to a town on the coast in search of a way around the Barrier and, ostensibly, to find his sister.
There were a couple typos (e.g. ‘see’ instead of ‘seen’), a few sentences with missing words, but most of the copy edit errors I saw were punctuation irregularities. There were also formatting issues. The text was double spaced and paragraphs were not indented.
A couple other things related to content caught my attention. One had to do with a game, which gets Bruno back on track on his mission to get around the Barrier. More said on this would be a spoiler, but until he is in town, I don’t believe this game is mentioned (unless I missed it). That makes its appearance just when he needs it a bit too serendipitous. I think there should have been a foreshadowing of this game earlier in the novel. The other thing that I thought did not seem right was when the Chairman mentions cubits to the ship’s chief engineer, and the engineer does not know what a cubit is. When the Chairman tells him that the AI for the ship looks like an Altar of Incense, however, he either knows what that is or doesn’t ask the obvious question, WTF is an Altar of Incense? I would expect that an engineer would be far more likely to recognize that a cubit is an archaic unit of measure than to be at all familiar with an Altar of Incense.
In any case, the prose alone is refreshingly good enough to make this an enjoyable read. As it stands now, I would give the novel 3.5 stars with greater potential with a bit of revision.