Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words
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Ben Edge is from Wales in the UK and has the claim to fame of working on the set of Doctor Who. This is his debut novel.
Allison Lakely dies in an accident, but her existence continues in the afterlife, somewhere called Better Place.
This is a book that has potential, but unfortunately ultimately fell short. It starts reasonably enough, we meet Allison, her sister Zoe and her alcoholic mother – clearly it is not a happy home. Although Allison puts on a brave face for Zoe she is being bullied at school. This is done well, the author creates a good degree of tension in Allison’s treatment.
Then Allison is killed and unfortunately the story becomes formulaic in nature. It immediately reminded me of several books and films. Allison finds herself in the Afterlife. She meets Death, a jokey, rather pathetic character who lives alone surrounded by empty pizza boxes. It reminded me of two other Death characters – from Terry Pratchett’s and Piers Anthony’s books.
Death takes her to a waiting room where she is processed and allocated a place to stay, very Beetlejuice in nature. As in the film the dead people she meets all display the after effects of their death. Once processed Allison meets Mark, a Death Integration Officer who has memory problems because he was killed by a blow to the head. It creates a series of occurrences that were probably intended to be funny but eventually become irritating when Mark repeatedly forgets what he’s supposed to be doing.
There are multiple technical issues with this book. Rarely does the author use the word said, opting for pretty much any other instead. In one chapter the four horsemen of the apocalypse are in a conversation. In the dialogue cursed, groaned, grunted, asked, replied, added, mumbled, sniffed (and many more) are used – as if it’s is a bad word to utilize. I disagree. Said is white noise, readers step over it. The above potentially creates the opposite effect and can distract from the story.
In addition the author often repeated words, leading to clunky paragraphs such as:
She heard the honking of the buses horn, muffled beneath her music. She looked up and saw the bus driver waiting impatiently. Allison rubbed her eyes and boarded the bus. The bus was already full…
This sentence also demonstrated an often occurring problem with missing apostrophes (e.g. Im fine, Its this memory loss). The author also mistakenly uses full stops and therefore capitalized new lines after dialogue:
“Yeah, its nothing.” She replied…
Oops, missing an apostrophe again.
At the end it is alluded that Allison is going to change Better Place in the next installment (a little like in the film Pleasantville?) but unfortunately I wasn’t interested enough to want to pick it up.
Multiple issues – spelling mistakes, punctuation, technical errors and repetition.
Rating: ** Two Stars