Genre: Dystopian Fantasy/Science Fiction
Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words
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Chantal Boudreau illustrates fantasy and horror stories, and has authored a number of short stories in the same genres. Fervor is her first novel.
This story begins with a compelling scenario when Sam, an eight-year-old boy, wakes in his own bedroom on the island of Fervor, suddenly deaf and with a cacophony of screaming people inside his head. An unknown teenager appears at his bedside and communicates telepathically with Sam—a new experience for him. The teenager is able to telepathically compel Sam to do his bidding and they leave the house, find a young girl (who was suddenly struck blind that same morning), and trek for a couple of days to “The Gathering” where they become part of a group of three hundred children who all have had one of their primary senses snatched away—sight, sound, touch etc. At the gathering, the children are compelled to listen to and obey a few directives about what they can and can’t do on the island, and then they split into fifty “families” of six children each. Five of the children in each group are able to communicate telepathically via “The Connection.” The story follows Sam’s family to the house allocated to them.
At this point, the story is about ten percent done. The remaining ninety percent revolves around the interaction between the family members and their musings and attempts to find out what the heck is going on.
To engage a reader, a story must have conflict, but in each family, each child has a specific skill: The Finder finds stuff. The Fixer fixes stuff. The Watcher watches stuff. The Keeper keeps information. The Teller tells everyone else what to do. Consequentially, every time a potential for conflict happens, such as when The Watcher, who has lost his sense of feeling, blunders into things and cuts himself—a possible source for placing him in danger and involving the reader in wondering how will he recover—no conflict happens, instead we are “told” he has cut himself and then the Fixer fixes him.
Sam is presented as the most intelligent in the group. He is inquisitive about what’s going on and could be the source of a revolution in the home, but anytime he or any of the other “Connected” children start to push past the boundaries set for them, The Teller tells them to stop and they have to obey. The only character not Connected—The Control--has an argument with the Teller and leaves the house early in the story—neatly getting rid of that potential for conflict.
The scope of the story is narrow at best—mostly confined to the house and the nearby beach. Much of the action and dialogue seemed trivial. The author repeatedly had one character tell another character that although they had more information, but wouldn’t tell them yet—this was irritating—if you’re not going to tell me something then don’t tell me anything.
Finally, the Point of View (POV)--the signal the reader needs in order to understand which character to follow and root for--slipped and slid around so much that most of the story felt muddled. As an illustration, here’s a paragraph chosen at random (comments in parentheses are mine):
“Sam took everything in stride (telling me what Sam did and in his POV), but the same could not be said for everyone. Sarah had put her fork down and had pushed away from the table. She had not been expecting Elliot’s brutal honesty (telling me what she feels, now firmly in Sarah’s POV). Perhaps, at first, the scholars had not realized just how much they would be playing with the lives of their subjects (now we’re in the multiple POV of the scholars who set up the experiment, this is omniscient POV because only the author can know this, no one on the island has the information needed to draw this conclusion).
This, remember, was one paragraph, and after dutifully finishing a whole story written like this, I felt as if my head had been put through a mincer.
No significant typos, the grammar and punctuation were clean.
Rating: ** Two stars