“Shade” by Michael Wayne

Stories about the Afterlife abound, and when another one rolls down my computer screen, I ask myself, “How is this different from the others?” In the case of “Shade,” the answers are straightforward.

Afterlife authors have to be very canny with the new world they are inventing. After all, most readers have some kind of idea of what they think it’s like. The new plane of existence in Shade is carefully thought out. The views we are given are important to the story, so our time is not wasted with extraneous frippery. Even better, this background material is revealed neatly in the course of action and dialogue, so the pace of the plot doesn’t slow.

Second is the plotline. Most afterlife novels depend on metaphysics, but Mr. Wayne takes a more prosaic approach. Bobby goes on a hero’s journey to find out who he is and how he fits his new setting. This brings the conflict to a personal level but with high stakes for the hero, creating added interest.

The third element that is often a problem in afterlife stories is the use of magic. Since the setting includes the All-Powerful, there is a tendency to depend on magical solutions to all the problems, and “Shade” falls into this trap. Many conflicts end through deus ex machina, solved by a more-powerful creature showing up. After a while, this decreases the suspense.

The author has made some good choices in characterization. He focuses on three main characters on the quest and leaves the rest of the cast with shorter parts. This allows us to get to know the characters better and empathize with them. He also makes good use of colloquial speech, vocabulary, and other oral idiosyncrasies to distinguish different characters in dialogue.

I really enjoyed this book, but I’m afraid the lack of good editing mounted up to become a bother. Repeated words and expressions in close proximity, sentence structure errors, quick point of view switches and too much passive voice distracted me from my enjoyment of the story.

The ending ties up most of the loose ends but leaves the main upper-level conflict for the sequel. In a clever twist, it also leaves the main character with a positive plot development, encouraging the reader to continue with the series to find out what happens.

Recommended for all Sci-Fi fans.

         4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.

About the Author: Gordon Long

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