Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Kindreds: An Alliance of Bloods

This book presents a number of debates and meditations on a variety of philosophical, existential, moral and ethical concerns within the overall framework of a push to overturn an existing political system.  Each chapter seems to have at least one dialogue or monologue relating to some discrete conflict in one of two major forms: either a debate between a well-thought position and a strawman argument or else an internal monologue exploring some concept, often related to an earlier debate.  Most of the arguments are of a rather streamlined nature that peel some of the complexities of the various issues with some being more thoroughly discussed than others.

Overall, the arguments are, as mentioned, streamlined or simplified.  In a few cases, one side or another presents a more extreme example of a particular position.  The question of whether killing someone is ever justified is brought up several times, but without touching on the matter of intention that represents the distinction between killing and murder.  Similarly, atheism and religion are treated in a cursory manner using only the basic arguments of each side of the issue.  Other issues are brought up such as the nature of freedom or what it means to be alive as adverse merely existing.

None of the arguments seem to come to any clear answer and I suspect that the author intends to mainly establish a base point for a continuing debate in later books rather than to come to a specific conclusion.  However, there is some implication in the storyline that implies some leanings.  While several of the characters come to the conclusion that they need to kill, they do so with the internal self-identification as being murderers and the majority of the characters expressing an atheistic view point are villainous in nature.

The writing itself shows a good amount of confidence and competence with the technical skills of writing.  The author shows a substantial vocabulary and a familiarity with the basics of rhetorical composition.  There is also a clear familiarity with politics and the long-term complexities of attempting to overthrow and replace an existing political system.  There is confidence and a definite voice.

As to the story, it had definite potential.  All the elements for an interesting story were there.  Unfortunately, the story is hampered by the very heavy rhetoric discussed above.  It is hard to get engaged in the story when every chapter includes a rhetorical treatise.  It is made worse because the author's voice takes over for the characters whenever a debate or dialogue occurs.  When it comes to the discussions all the characters argue the same and use the same verbal mannerisms.

The consequence of the frequent loss of immersion in the story is that the flaws inherent in any story become more obvious when your engagement is broken.  An example of this is the fact that I kept thinking about how ridiculous it was that this was hundreds, maybe thousands, of years after the destruction of the United States and yet an isolated group showed almost no linguistic drift.  There was, of course, mention of differences in language, but said differences were largely cosmetic.  There was no grammatical shift at all, which is unlikely given how much drift there is between different cities in the US alone.  However, if I had been engaged in the story, I would either have dismissed this as a concern or not noticed it in the first place.  This tendency continues throughout the story, with me having a heightened awareness of what should be minor inaccuracies that are easy to dismiss or ignore.

I must admit to some dislike for stories where the message is focused on the story. This story is a perfect example of why.  The various issues that the author brings up suffer for the fact that there are so many of them.  None of them are explored with much depth and the frequent rhetoric undermines the story by making it clearly a vehicle for the author's opinions, which itself undermines the arguments made since people are more resistant to accepting an obvious argument.  I tend to feel your feelings and beliefs more honestly and effectively get into your story when you're not trying to directly express an opinion.  That said, I'm also of the opinion that at least half of the meaning of a story comes from the individual interpretation of each reader with the writer's interpretation being only one of many possible.

Overall, the book tries to be too many things at once and is rather disappointing as a whole.  The basic storyline is interesting and had potential to be great while the topics and issues discussed were interesting in and of themselves.  However, neither is as engaging as they could have been.

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