Saturday, December 3, 2011

Indie Book Review: For the Sake of the Future

And, after a rather long delay, the Indie Book Review is back! (I know all three of you were waiting with baited breath for the next installment.) Today we're going to look at For the Sake of the Future.

One of the online communities of writers I hang out at has been bouncing around the idea of whether or not you should hold onto an idea if you don't think you're a good enough writer to tackle it yet. Now, I'm a big fan of not waiting. I think you'll lose a lot of what you want with the idea if you just set it on the shelf. At the same time, I don't think you should publish that work until you are a good enough writer to do it proper justice.

Why is this relevant? For the Sake of the Future is a great idea. I wish I had come up with the plot for this story, it's so good. Val Panesar unfortunately is not a good enough writer to do it justice, yet.

The plot: The Big Bad wants to change the world. He's gotten a hold of eight people right after they died, The Undying, and offered them the chance to go back in time and rewrite the world, to make human existence 'meaningful' by going to war and making sure the 'right' people die. Apparently his main characters are a little stupid, and a little shook up from just having died, so they all agree. They start changing the past. From there we get twists, turns, crosses, double crosses, paradoxes, and the fun that time travel allows.

I really wish I had thought of this plot. And that I was or knew a really good graphic artist. For the Sake of the Future would have made an incredible graphic novel. There's action galore, and the main character, Neelam Lochan, is a huge manga fan. Starting this plot off in a fairly realistic drawing style and slowly morphing it into a manga style would have worked really well.

I liked the characters. Neelam is engaging and pleasant. Greg, Sean, and Marid, back up characters, are all interesting. As I mentioned above, the characters are a little dull, but unlike a lot of writers who indicate their characters are the smartest thing ever, and then they start doing stupid things, Panesar never tries to sell us on the idea that his characters are brilliant. They're regular guys (sort of, this would be one of the twists mentioned above) dropped into an extraordinary circumstance, and it takes them a while to realize this is not a good plan.

So, that's the good points.

The bad part is that this book desperately needed both an editor and a proofreader.

An editor was necessary to reign in the point of view hopping, chronology hopping, and chop about a quarter of the story out. Now, I don't hate head hopping in a book, as long as it's not done mid-scene. One point of view per scene takes care of the job nicely.  And I understand that parts of this book are supposed to be confusing, but randomly hopping about in the chronology, swapping POVs only makes the confusion worse. The idea is to write the story so that the confusion of the characters shines through, not to write the story so that the reader is scratching her head going, "What just happened there?" On top of that this is a long (and trust me, I write long books, I know long.) book, and it doesn't need to be quite that long.

A proofreader needed to go through and fix up the grammar, typos, and formatting issues. Now, I'm not going to be winning any awards for Grammarian of the Year. On top of that, I don't much care about grammar mistakes that don't jump off the page. But there were enough issues with For the Sake of the Future that I was irked by them.

Basically it's a rough draft.  It's a rough draft of something that could become a good book. On Goodreads two stars means the book was okay, one star means I didn't like it. Neither of those options really work. This book isn't okay; it's not well enough written to get an okay. But I did like it. I'd really like to see what it might look like after Panesar takes a few years to really study how a story hangs together and gets a good editor. So, no stars for For the Sake of the Future, just a review.


  1. The aspiring writer's worst nightmare: after all the labor and hope, you are gently informed that you don't know what you're doing. Best to hear it sooner rather than later, I guess.

  2. I think this is where having a beta or two that also knows how to write really comes in handy. Val is really good with plot, but he does need some more time to work on the technical aspects.

    It's funny, from what I've heard about the old (pre 1950's) publishing system, writers would be picked for talent with things like plot, and then the editors would work with them to teach them how to write and structure a story, and in some cases actually build the necessary work into the book to make it hang together properly. In a situation like that FTSOTF would have been a splendid story.

  3. That's unfortunate. I would like to proofread it. Anyone want to hire me? I'm great at what I do; I just need a chance.