The Owners Volume 1: Alone by Carmen Capuano (book review).
There are two schools of thought about writers’ groups. Some think that the comments they would get would hamper them and possibly cause them to give up writing and others that there is immense value in them. To some extent it depends of the writers’ group itself. Some can be extremely valuable to a novice writer and point out errors or flaws that the author might be too close to their work to spot on their own. A good writers’ group can indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the work and help the author to improve it enough to make an established publisher take notice. Carmen Capuano would have benefited from that kind of scrutiny.
‘Alone’ is a self-published book and suffers from a number of problems that could have been put right or alleviated by discussion of the work in progress. Some of the issues arise from the packaging, often a problem with self-published books. The cover itself is elegant and restrained but neither it nor the blurb give a real indication of the kind of book that lies within the covers. Both main characters are fourteen years old. The style is straightforward and appropriate for a mid-teen or even a young adult book and the plot does, up to a point, deal with dilemmas of that age group. However, it would have been improved if more attention had been given to proof-reading.
In many respects, the plot-line has the potential to engage the younger reader. This is a world where dwellings are in trees. Each house is owned and occupied by an Eyon, a large, bird-like being. Each Eyon has a Pet whose role is to care for them. The Pets are humans who have been taken from their families while still infants. San is one such Pet. He has to look after his owner while she ‘works’. For an Eyon, work consists of being hooked up to a machine that we might recognise as a computer. While working, the Eyon is scarcely aware of anything around it. Loni is a Pet in another tree village. Her Owner has a hatchling which Loni has to act as nanny to. She is very fond of her baby Eyon and has called him Little, even though he is bigger than she is.
Both these young people make the decision to leave their owners at exactly the same time. Loni has a good reason. She has discovered that Little is old enough to be hooked up to a machine and she doesn’t want to lose his companionship. She is determined to take him away and find a place where they can continue their friendship. San’s reasons for leaving are less logical. Up to this point it has been implied that Owners do not let their Pets mix with each other but suddenly San is taken to an open area bordering a lake where he gets to talk to an older Pet about the human situation. As a result, he ups and leaves. This scene leaves a lot of questions. It feels as if the original Pet/Owner relationship was developed and when something else is needed it is attached without considering the implications it has for what has gone before.
Pets and Owners do not speak a common language, yet human children are snatched from their parents at or before the age of two when a vocabulary is still limited. As they are raised by the Owners and taught how to care for themselves without apparent, assistance from anyone else it is strange that both Loni and San have a complex vocabulary by the time they are fourteen. This also has a lot of modern colloquialisms that seem inappropriate for the setting. They also seem to have acquired other skills that are difficult to see how they would have learnt them in the proposed society. Without being able to communicate, the Owners have somehow induced their Pets to believe that they were given away by their parents for their own safety because human villages are in constant war with each other. Both children discover that they have been lied to.
It is not just the social structure that has logical holes in it. The geography is difficult to visualise. Loni and San are moving towards each other from opposite directions, yet both encounter the same human village. San reaches the sea but Loni doesn’t, yet they are destined to meet.
These are not the only problematic issues. Some are scientific and could easily be resolved with discussion or consulting someone with greater knowledge. For example, the Eyons are winged and feathered and can fly. Yet they are larger than their Pets and able to carry at least two when shopping. On Earth, which is the implied setting, this would be impossible. Making bones lighter isn’t the answer as the Eyons would become too fragile to function and although fragility is commented upon, Little is robust enough for the tough and tumble of a football game. Another planet with lighter gravity could be a solution. Also, the reason suggested for Eyons being unable to use human speech is blamed on the uvula. Since sounds produced by the larynx are shaped into words by the lips and tongue this is illogical.
What is sad about a book like this is that most of the problems could have been put right. My recommendation is that the author should find a quality writers’ group in her area and allow shared expertise to help iron out problems which currently stop this book showing its potential. Like many self-published books, this one has been written with a love that tends towards the self-indulgent. It now needs a firm hand to shape it.
(pub: Fastprint Publishing. 391 page enlarged paperback. Price: £10.99 (UK), $18.50 (US). ISBN: 978-178035-445-3)
check out website: http://carmencaouano/blogspot.co.uk/