Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Right Path (Debra L. Martin and David W. Small)

This book is a novelette leading into the Dark Future series by authors Debra Martin and David Small. It serves to whet the appetite as it describes a post-war future of scorched earth, broken buildings, violence, and beggars. Our focus is on a handful of individuals, one a cripple and the other an orphan, navigating through this mess as they find the so-called "Right Path."
  • Overall: 3.8   ҉
  • Plot: 4.2/5
  • Originality: 3.8/5
  • Language: 3.5/5
  • Believability: 4/5
In the stereotypically war-torn land is a man with a shopping cart full of odd items. For reasons known only to himself, he chooses to give a cripple a cane and a possible prostitute a blade. As one of the local gangs descend upon these two teens, they discover that the fancy but otherwise useless gifts are actually anything but - they are "memory weapons," ones that allow Abe and Zia to defend themselves and one another against the bullies in question.

The advice from the old man with the cart, both at the beginning and at the end of the novelette, reminds me of the very basic concept of "paying it forward." What he preaches is altruism, a noble mentality that has all but vanished in this survival-based society. It's a simple message, and while I shook my head alongside the protagonist at the seeming impracticality of it, the authors manage to deliver the words without making it feel as if the reader is being preached at or condescended to.

Then there is the concept of the memory weapons themselves. The basic idea is that unlocking them releases the ability to fight, though there are repercussions for their use. Perhaps I've read too much manga over the years, but the idea of a tool giving one the ability to fight is one that is frequently utilized and thus quite familiar. Still, it isn't nearly as prevalent in literature, and it is interesting to think that the ability to fight can be locked into an innocuous-looking item only to be unleashed with the push of a button. Thanks to Lois Lowry's The Giver, the concept of passing on memories is much more easily believed, however impossible it would be to achieve. All the same,the idea of the memory weapon rendering a cripple's leg functional was still a bit much for me without the introduction of some fantastical explanation (like magic). Maybe I'm just thinking too hard.

The language of the novelette is accessible without being overly simplified. I did grow weary of the word "twerp," however, and longed for a different epithet for Zia by the time that I was a third of the way through the book. There were a few other instances of redundancy, though for the most part, Small and Martin were able to keep this to a minimum. The purposeful use of incorrect grammar in dialogue was wholly appropriate and made the characters seem more undereducated and therefore much more credible. It simply makes sense for them to value food over phrasing, as demonstrated by the frequent references to hunger and minimal mentions of learning. To this end, the authors succeeded in bringing the story to life and keeping it that way.

In some ways, The Right Path feels more like a teaser than a book, which may have been the point. It serves as a good lead-in for whatever else is coming, though the last page feels more like the end of a chapter than the end of a novelette. I finished and felt both curious and a bit dissatisfied. Curious, because I wanted to see what would happen, and dissatisfied because the story ended on a sort of cliffhanger. The fact that my interest was piqued indicates the book's potential to draw a person into this make-believe world. A great deal of possibility lies ahead for this series if The Right Path is any indication of future success.

(Review copy provided by the authors)


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