Requiem, Changing Times by R.J. Parker (book review).

The Requiem has been stolen, an artefact that would allow the forces of evil, known as the Fury, to spread across everything and rule with a dark iron fist. The Fury has the scent of those who took it and they have a name…Clint Holden. O’Neil, a dwarf with a pet squirrel, and a human named Banks escaped the clutches of darkness but now they must gather a team and find Clint Holden before their enemies do.

James Cooper just wants to drink on his night off. Instead, he is investigating reports of aliens and dealing with terrified farmers with shotguns. Meanwhile, Clint Holden is having trouble with seventh grade.

The main issue I have with this book is the sheer number of stories going on. The book opens with a group of Australian ex-army types infiltrating an American military base to steal or possibly stop some sort of scientific research. Then we move to O’Neil and Banks escaping through the wilderness with plasma crossbows and mysterious glowing pouches. Then Officer Cooper is fighting suspected aliens. The forces of evil gather their forces and do some plotting. Then back to O’Neil and Banks gathering a team to infiltrate an unknown location via an unknown route through and unknown number of enemies. But don’t worry, your leader Banks knows how to give an inspiring speech, ‘If you might be wondering why you have been selected for this and not a previous superior force, I don’t want you to worry about it.’ Reassured? Don’t worry, his troops weren’t neither.

Finally, we get to Clint Holden, the person so many people are interested in. He’s got issues with his seventh grade math teacher stepfather and can’t speak in front of the girl he likes and a strange guy is lurking outside his house.

If this tangle of characters and backstory weren’t enough, there are also the voices of the characters. Accents abound. In the first sequence, there are five, one of which is Australian. I am Australian. No one says someone was a ‘banana kick in the game plan’ because that’s not how the term ‘banana kick’ works. If you’re interested, it’s an Australian football thing. It might be an attempt to Australian-ise the ‘he threw me a curve ball’ type phrase. Things are not bonza. We don’t ‘strap a heifer down’, particularly when referring to a human female. But I persevered, only to fall into a dwarven dialect that is possible Scottish with many a ‘yoo’ for ‘you’ and ‘tae’ for ‘to’.

On top of this plethora of accents, each character has been given a unique speech pattern that is perhaps intended to distinguish them but mostly gets tiring to read. The main offender is Clive Holden’s stepfather who has won a Nobel Prize. Possibly for swallowing a thesaurus. Why say ‘shall you tell them or shall I?’ when you can say ‘shall I tell them, dear, or would you care to ensue?’ The language in this novel overall is convoluted and often does not parse well. Sometimes it might be an overly long sentence. Other times it is a word out of place that jars the reading: ‘whenever the subject came up he would change the rules and talk about something else.’ It doesn’t make for an easy read.

A common piece of writing advice is to ‘kill your darlings’, to look over the words you’ve sweated and bled over and cast aside those that don’t move the plot forward. Over a third of the way into this book I knew a lot about Clint Holden’s inability to speak to a girl and his fraught family situation but nothing about why the forces of both light and dark were after him. I knew a great deal about the alcoholic tendencies of O’Neil but not why or how he had come to meet Banks and help him escape from the orcs hunting him. There was no motivation to keep reading as the plot had not come to the fore. It wasn’t until half-way through that the various storylines came together to try and drive the plot forward, at least for a little while.

This novel isn’t finished. Perhaps with some time with the editors to pare things back and make it easier on the reader it could be good but it is not there yet. Unfortunately, Mr. Parker has been let down by his publishers, Olympia Publishing. A publishing company that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America list on their ‘Thumbs Down Publishers List’ as one that has contributed to a large number of complaints.

I really wanted to like this book. The broad-strokes of this book were there. A crack military team infiltrating enemy territory with limited intel to secure a dangerous object. The enemy territory being our world and the crack team being a mix of supernatural creatures. I wanted to love it, this strange portal fantasy version of a thriller. I would love to see this book again with half the words taken out and the rest reworked into a more coherent whole as a YA portal fantasy thriller. But the plot of this book is lost in a sea of words and backstory.

LK Richardson

October 2019

(pub: Olympia Publishers. 462 page paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $15.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-78830-442-9)

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