I don´t like to review books. Not that I don´t do it, it is just that I don´t like doing it on the Works of independent writers, after all, Reading is much easier than actually seating your ass and doing the creative work of writing a story, and most independent writers don´t have the benefit of a professional editor to help them hone their skills.
I am Reading the Tide series, by Anthony J. Melchiorri. It is composed of five books so far, and I am such an obsessive bitch that I´ve read most of them in spite of my dislike for the author´s style.
Mr. Melchiorri seems to believe that writing detailed action scenes means he is moving the plot somewhere. It isn´t! In fact, describing fistfights in painstaking details only serve to slow the real action, and it does not bring the reader into the tension of the situation.
Let´s start with the first book. I read it with interest cause it proposed a different scientific approach to the making of Zombies, a z-apocalypse tale with a sci-spin. So, I joined the ride.
The first odd decisions were exactly those of the character building: they were all very predictable, you can tell what each one of them will say and do, even who will die, pretty much like the sidekicks who went with the core actors of Star Trek to the new planets: you need somebody to die, and still keep those with the “plot armor”.
The book opening takes us to japan and their version of bio-engineered weapons. The scientist´s reasons are pretty flat, no nuance, nothing to make us think or ponder.
Years later a CIA analyst finds out that the US govt or someone within the govt is plotting a massive attack around the world using a bio weapon and you already knows that her superior is a bad guy. I thought “meh”.
When the Survivor of the first cover top team survives we already know what is going to happen to him, he will turn and help spread the infectious agent, and other infected corpses wash ashore doing the same, so we are informed.
The second team of cover tops, the hero team, is the one to unveil the terror, and the plot and characters resemble that of TV series The Last Ship: a crew trying to save the world from a terrible disease and mass extinction.
The scientific twist mixes nanotech and príonic diseases, such as kuru-kuru and mad-cow disease, but even then, when the doctors and scientists in the ship do not perform an autopsy in the corpse of na operative KIA and who showed signs of contamination, when they kept two fully contaminated subjects alive out of real isolation facility, endangering the crew, and without any reason, cause there were plenty of live subjects which could be caught for further study should they need it, on the grounds that they could be healed from spongiform encephalopathy… I rolled my eyes in despair.
And there is the problem of treating and eventually curing and recovering a patient from brain damage caused by a príon disease. The book doesn´t make it clear what a prion is exactly, cause that is hard Science, and it is even more complicated to admit that there is no treatment that effectively postpones the onset or death of an affected patient, that most research is pretty incipient and limited by constraints of different natures that a couple of scientists in a makeshift lab in a ship would never be able to get even close to simulate, let alone surpass, and that it is highly unlikely you can develop a vaccine for something that is not exactly alive and which does not operate on your immune system in the same way microorganisms do. They aren´t even really strange bodies.
I kind of stand in awe of príons: they are Schrodinger´s cats, and they´re lethal! Since you don´t see them in birds… (although there are prion-like proteins in fungi)…
None of these would be that problematic, if the characters had a minimum of complexity, so you could relate to them, if they rang true, and if the plot moved.
The author painstakingly describes the so called action. Each movement, shot, grenade lauch, enemy kill, run for shelter, as if he was writing a detailed script, or describing a vídeo game adventure. That does not mean that the plot moves, cause in spite of all the action, very little happens, you don´t learn new things, new facts, you don´t build na arch, or understand the politics that led to that event, who those people are and their true intentions, if there is a plot, it is stretched so thin, that he has to fill with action scenes as page fillers.
When the regular zombie skulls get dull, you come up with bigger, harder to kill ones, when these get boring, the author creates another challenge to the characters, the acid spitting ones, and then monkeys and elephants turned skulls, so the “game” increases in difficulty. Well, that is a book, not a video game, and I want to see a story, not simple action, I want to learn about the characters, the reasons, the consequences, the politics, the relationships.
You know when a book, and in this case 5 books, is irrelevant, when you jump tem pages, and the characters are still in the same action, same frame of mind, nothing was discovered, no surprise, nothing was shared.
There is talent for putting words together, and I think that the author should put more effort into building characters and a proper arch, avoiding stretching the plot so thin that all you have is the tenuous thread of a third rate video game. I believe he can do it, I don´t understand why he doesn´t.