Emergence by John Birmingham

EmergenceThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Dave Hooper has a hangover from hell, a horrible ex-wife, and the fangs of the IRS deep in his side. The last thing he needs is an explosion at work. A real explosion. On his off-shore oil rig.

But this is no accident, and despite the news reports, Dave knows that terrorists aren’t to blame. He knows because he killed one of the things responsible.

When he wakes up in a hospital bed guarded by Navy SEALs, he realizes this is more than just a bad acid trip. Yeah, Dave’s had a few. This trip is way weirder.

Killing a seven-foot-tall, tattooed demon has transformed the overweight, balding safety manager into something else entirely. A foul-mouthed, beer-loving monster slayer, and humanity’s least worthy Champion.”

If I didn’t know for a fact that Birmingham has written other books, I would swear that this novel was the work of a first-time author with a penchant for fanfic.  The story wasn’t bad, but the writing mistakes were plentiful and widely varied.

First of all, a writer should mostly stick with a single way of designating their characters.  Our main character here is Dave Hooper, and one would think that after introducing him, he would mostly be referred to by either his first or last time.  Instead, the author uses “Dave”, “Hooper”, “Dave Hooper”, “the oilman”, “the oilrigger”, and I think one or two others that I’m forgetting.  I can see varying it occasionally, but this goes on constantly, oftentimes on a single page.

The one time that Birmingham does stick to one name is with the demons, when it’s most annoying that he do so.  The first demon we encounter is Urgon Htoth ur Hunn, Battlemaster of the Fourth Legion.  I didn’t even have to look up this name, because it gets repeated, in its entirety, many times.

Something else that pulled me from the narrative was the author’s habit of interrupting the action for infodumps.  For example, when Dave first meets Urgon (I refuse to type that whole name out again), he grabs a splitting maul and swings it at the creature’s head.  In mid-swing, the story changes to Urgon’s point of view and spends several pages describing what it’s thinking while conveniently providing all kinds of information for the reader.  Oh, and that maul?  When Dave picks it up, there’s a long description of that, too.

Birmingham also appears to be fond of similes.  The most common way he describes things is to compare them to something else.  As a result, there’s a lot of sentences like “His voice was and rasped in his throat like gravel.”  (Page 36)  The tendency seems to increase as the book goes on, as well.

Lastly, I just don’t like Dave as a character or as a person.  He’s foul-mouthed, denies responsibility for things, insults people, and generally acts like a reprehensible human being.  His worst failing, to me anyway, is how he compartmentalizes the kinds of person that he has to be.  Instead of being truly repentant for things that he does, he pulls out a personality he calls Contrite Dave.  He calls the side of him that drinks, does drugs, and womanizes as Bad Dave.  It’s like those parts of him have only a passing relationship to the “real” Dave, and it grated on my nerves.

There were the glimmers of a decent story in all of this, and I think I might have liked this book better if it was actually the first half of another book.  Heck, the entire trillogy (books two and three upcoming) might end up working best as one long-ish novel.  But with all the padding, the writing gaffes, and the unlikeable main character, this book become something that I can’t recommend.  It disappointed me, because I was looking forward to this one and had my expectations shattered in the worst possible way.

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