The Insanity of Zero
on Oct. 08, 2012
This short story is a perfect primer for Michael Offutts’ sci-fi series A Crisis of Two Worlds; in particular, the first novel Slipstream. Mr. Offutt states this short story was originally a prologue cut from the first novel; and I’d have to say this is a rare moment for me as a reader where I feel the prologue would have worked for the novel. This was relevant, but not duplicated, backstory information, and it does introduce the eventual main character.
My only critique would be for the author to put this in third person POV and consistent present tense.
I have read Slipstream, and Z.E.R.O.’s account of his origins – and the fate of the alternate world Avalon – is not a necessary read to enjoy and immerse yourself into the world. The author has excellent world building skills. However, If you’ve read Slipstream this will answer some of the questions that occur to the reader; and if you haven’t read the first novel, it is an enticing introduction to the overall series plot.
The Insanity of Z.E.R.O has great voice, time defying forward progress, a personality that grows and changes with the character’s self awareness, and is a mini-story all in itself.
I highly recommend this short story to those who have read any of A Crisis Of Two Worlds novels, and/or to those who want to be enticed into a world where science fiction and philosophy collide to build a unique world and plot concept. I give this story 5 stars as it stands alone or compliments the series plot building.
The vampire concept in Dance on Fire was truly appealing. Vincent is a true villain; evil, selfishly arrogant, unapologetic, a ruthless killer. His protégé Nathaniel, on the other hand, is unsure of his purpose, questioning his unholy existence since the Vincent slaughtered his family, took him captive for several years, and finally turned him in a moment of rage. Nicholas has been on the run from Vincent for over 200 years. Vincent has finally caught his scent in the pre-holiday town of Kingsburg, CA, and has set his torturous sights on the family of a police detective that Nicholas has pledged himself to protect.
As Vincent wreaks a trail of carnage through the police force, leaving Nicholas' name as the obvious perpetrator, Nicholas is making friends with Detective Michael Lopez's wife, Barbara. They share a religious connection, both exploring what God's plan for humans is, and more importantly, which humans he may bestow His Mercy upon, and which he sets up for tribulations.
I am a longtime fan of vampire horror, with authors Stephen King and Anne Rice as two of my favorites. Both authors blend themes of good vs evil within the story and character plots; and it is this crossover concept that drew me to James Garcia Jr's writings. Dance On Fire has a strong theme of faith, hope, and family values that ultimately determine the moral fiber of each character - vampire or human. The story starts a bit slow with a wide world view as Garcia builds a small town vibe, drawing the reader steadily into the lives, loves, and tragedies of his main characters: Nathaniel the unwilling vampire victim/hero; Michael Lopez, a morally upstanding police detective and devoted family man; Mark Jackson, Michael's stalwart partner and long time family friend; and Michael's wife Barbara, a devout christian and mother to their twins and 10 year old son.
As the story progresses, Barbara becomes more of a focal point, the pace picks up as the victims overwhelm the small police force and shatter the trust of the small town community, and Barbara and Michael are forced to make hard decisions about their moral and religious beliefs. Overall, this was an excellent vampire horror story with well developed, complex characters, an intriguing premise, well written and intense action sequences, sufficient violence without gimmicky gore, and a satisfying resolution to the character and story plot issues. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy vampires that are monsters, heroes who triumph by using skill and intelligence, understand violence is bloody, and appreciate a philosophical exploration of God and his creatures.
That said, the book has its share flaws. The story is told through an omniscient narrator in a near poetic, stream of consciousness cadence reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe. The narrator discloses the intimate details of every character's thoughts and lives, regardless of whether the character's scene is three sentences or three chapters long. While the perspectives are not quite head-hopping, most scenes are replicated through several characters perceptions in the same timeline, and there is a dream sequence that completely reprints three previous conversations. The prologue is repeated during a couple flashbacks, and the narrator uses a multitude of pronouns and descriptive adjectives to refer to relationships and as dialogue tags. The consistent use of similes throughout the action and descriptions also made it difficult to focus on the specific characters and their activities, many times creating confusion whether the setting was in present, flashback, or was merely merely a dream or fanciful thoughts.
Had I not been committed to reading Dance on Fire, the confusing and unexpected perception and setting shifts would have kept me from attaining the connection I needed to the characters and story that did not happen until the perspective clarified at about 40 percent of the reading. It was hard to continue on at the 17 percent mark, when the auto reader advised I had an hour and fifteen minutes left in Chapter 1! Still, I was intrigued by the vampire concept, so persevered, and was glad I did.
The writing considerably tightens after the 60 percent mark, proving Mr. Garcia's writing and storytelling skills, and I was fully engaged in the characters and action at that point. I am glad I stuck with the novel; it was a good horror story and gave me much philosophy regarding good and evil for thought. I look forward to reading more from James Garcia Jr as an upcoming horror novelist and watching his skills progress.