'The Dash' Front CoverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Before I start, I want to point out that I like long books and series with lots of details to bring the story to life. However, meaningless details can kill a book, especially when the story seems to be a random string of them.

I have to say that I finally finished The Dash and it was anything but. It took me weeks of self-discipline to read through this tome. At 716 pages it is only a middle weight when compared to The Wheel of Time series but I will not be reading volume two. I would say that the ‘story’ – if there was one – could have been told much better in 1/2 – 1/3 of the text used.

Throughout the whole book, the story was nebulous at best. I assume that the author was trying to use ‘showing’ by putting in all these little details but honestly, it just felt like sitting in the middle of the ocean and dreaming of a little fresh water. There seemed to be little or no point to many of the actions of the characters and often their reactions to rather trivial things seemed to be out of proportion to their actions.

One of the biggest irritants I found was the use of words that was inconsistent with the imagery being built. An example: “‘Excuse me?’ she spits, but through relaxed lips.” If the sentence had stopped at “she spits” it would have left one with an image most will bring to mind quickly, but adding, “but through relaxed lips”was jarring, and in opposition to the image of someone spitting out their words. Its only use seems to be exactly that, to jar the reader. While this technique can be useful in many ways it should be used judiciously; filling a whole book with similar sentences turns an enjoyable pastime into a chore.

Almost every single character in the book seemed to have some kind of a mental health issue, ranging from OCD and amnesia to full on sociopathy. While only one or two are specifically noted in the text, many can be easily diagnosed.

I am glad I actually finished this book because the last 150 pages more closely resembled a story and more plot was revealed in these pages than the rest of the book combined. Now if the first 2/3rd of the book was condensed it would have been much better. I did notice that the book was split into 5 parts of 10 chapters with ~14 pages per chapter. I don’t know what the significance of this pattern was but many of the chapters seemed to be written to conform to this pattern. Either they were stretched out with trivia filling in or cut short. Some chapters seemed to be cut in half and others were wielded together because it wasn’t ‘time’ to start another one.

The story also seemed to be very inconsistently written as far as the type of things that occurred. For most of the book sex or sexual acts of any kind were very circumspectly hinted at but near the end some guy was sodomized by a football as a punishment. This act was totally out of left field, even if the person seemed to deserve such treatment.

I’m not saying the author should throw away the attempt and give up writing. There were some very interesting ideas in this book and a couple feats that were almost unbelievable. On the back cover the book mentions that Claire (the main character) gets whisked away to a “black and white town of Cloak Valley”. Other than that it is up to the reader to figure out and notice that the only colors mentioned are ones that would fit on a grey scale. That really impressed me. The story itself seemed to be an interesting one, but it was buried under too much other stuff to have any chance of shining. Having a good editor cut through this book would do it wonders.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amature woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided by C.J. Duarte. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.