Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: The Son of Man by C.W. Johnson

I've decided to add some indie published books to my reading list this year. The explosion in self-published ebooks, coupled with the troubles of traditional publishing has made for interesting choices for both readers and writers. I've been very curious about the quality of these self-published books and whether self-publishing is a viable option instead of waiting the endless months and/or years it takes to get traditionally published.

I perused the list of free ebooks on Barnes and Noble, the search criteria for which I found on nookboards.  I chose free first because I figured why pay for a book if there was something in the free category that was good? I know a lot of indie authors offer a book for free or at the ninety-nine cent price point to encourage new readers to check them out. The hope is that the reader will like the free book so much they'll pay for other books by the author. In addition, I omitted books that have been previously published by a traditional publisher. Authors who have gotten their rights back are publishing their backlists and often use the same marketing tactic to attract new readers. But I don't consider these books truly indie. They may be publishing the ebooks themselves, but the books originally went through the traditional route and have been edited for content and copyedited for grammar, spelling, etc. by professionals. I wanted to see what a new writer's work looks like.

The Son of Man has a four star rating based on 66 user reviews on Barnes and Noble. The glowing reviews of so many readers, plus the fact that the premise of the book sounded interesting, made it the first indie book I've read since Amanda Hocking. I was pleasantly surprised by her work and was hoping for something similar here. It didn't happen.

The story question is "What if DNA from the blood of Christ, taken from two relics, was cloned to bring about the second coming?" I liked this because it actually fits with the Biblical account of the first coming. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a military leader, a political king of Israel, and lead them to victory over their enemies, establishing God's kingdom here on earth. That wasn't the way things were. Jesus, while fulfilling the prophesies in His own way, wasn't what they expected. The kingdom of God wasn't a political kingdom according to Him. It was in the hearts of His disciples. So it seems entirely logical, in an ironic sort of way, that God would choose cloning rather than a descent from the clouds to fulfill the second coming.

Unfortunately, the original premise wasn't fulfilled by the book. While the story of Maria and Todd (the stand-ins for Mary and Joseph) and the conflicts in their strange relationship and the cloning of the baby are interesting, the subplots seemed pointless and confusing. Brother Michael, who is early on referred to as the Jesus guy, is puzzling. I kept wondering if he was going to turn out to be the true Christ or whether he was the antichrist, but instead he appears to be a John the Baptist character. His activities with his homeless companions don't seem to have a point, although that may have been brought out later in the book.

I don't know because I couldn't finish reading this book. I kept trying, but after 300 "pages" (out of 900), I quit to read something that was better written. There are long sections that could have been cut. It needs a good copyedit to fix punctuation, inconsistent capitalization, etc. And two adjectives (sometimes with an adverb) are not better than one.

The author also has a habit of writing generic actions, e.g., "The whole world cheered." Well, no. Not only do I doubt that everyone on the entire planet cheered at this point, it would have been much more effective to show the characters we've already met cheering over this news. That would have made both the cheering and the individuals more real.

This book starts with an original idea and has some good storytelling, but it is just too flawed to give it more than two stars.
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