Rating: 2.75 stars
David Ruger has a nice if not exactly exciting life. He has a job as a car mechanic, a nice house, two dogs, and a sometime boyfriend named Wyler. Wyler is the most uncertain part of David’s life. Wyler will appear suddenly, baggage in hand, stay for a while and then disappear once more. David is not quite sure what Wyler does exactly but he’s not going to push the issue because he is happy with the status quo. Then one night, Wyler starts to talk of things and places he has been that are so fantastic, so unbelievable that David fears for his “little buddy’s” sanity. Until Wyler says he can take David with him to see these things for himself, specifically a destination called the Expanse, an alien universe that is Wyler’s home.
David thinks Wyler is joking, until Wyler tells him that change is coming to the Expanse and David’s part in that change has been foreseen by someone close to Wyler. A half joking “seeing is believing” comment later, and David is standing with Wyler on an alien world, far away from home and trouble is indeed on the way. Wyler hasn’t been exactly truthful to David. Wyler is a shifter, able to shift himself and others, including humans from universe to universe. Long ago, the Expanse underwent a horrific war when a group of shifters known as The God Hunters and the old gods fought. Now it seems the God Hunters are plotting again, so are the old Gods and David is smack in the middle of things.
There are floating cities to traverse, a trio of brothers to meet and winged demons to fight before David can even begin to understand his place in the Expanse and uncover the real reason everyone is hunting him. But David must hurry because some of those hunters don’t just want to capture David, they want him dead.
Let’s start with something positive, shall we? There is a marvelous graphic novel in here somewhere, buried under layer after layer of repetitious and nap inducing verbiage. And that’s a shame because I think the author has a terrific plot and some really endearing characters in The God Hunters. All Mark Reed needed, in my opinion, is someone to reign him in and edit, edit, edit. But starting with the Prologue, the author is clearly in love with words and descriptions, so much so that once they start flowing, he seems unable to stop.
The author takes us from a god’s viewpoint of the cosmos to our first meeting with David and Wyler, who David calls his “little buddy”. Shades of the Skipper and Gilligan! And how appropriate for someone soon to be marooned in an alien universe. David Ruger is a somewhat bland character, leading a bland little life. Wyler is only moderately more interesting. So it is very hard to connect with these two people who don’t seem all that connected with each other. I was hoping for more “sparks” as the location changed from St. Louis, Missouri to the Expanse but what followed was description after description of the places they were walking through. Dull, vast, sleep inducing descriptions, really, it was so monotone a narrative that I had to read it in spurts, or not go forward at all.
It didn’t begin to get mildly interesting until two thirds of the way through the 308 pages when the hunt for David got a little exciting. I wish I could tell you that the other characters were better realized or at least more memorable than the main creations but even now as I try to remember who and which of the three brothers David meets and hooks up with, nothing springs to mind. No characters, nothing. There is a Bryan, a Doug and James but all have been created along the same lines (the brother thing not withstanding) as to make them interchangeable. The final four chapters brings a sense of drama and excitement missing from all the previous chapters when our heroes find themselves under fire and in danger for their lives. And while once again we have far too many words for the actions taking place, at least the narrative here is more streamlined and moves the plot forward swiftly enough to grab at the reader’s attention and make us wonder why the author waited until the end to make things exciting. Because by that time, most readers have disappeared, vanquished by a dense narrative and a flood of blandness.
What is amazing here is Mark Reed’s artwork. He has created a website for this series/book The God Hunters where he displays his notes and artwork for the series. And it is within the art that the magic of The God Hunters finally comes to life. The digital scenes Reed creates for his book are rich in color and dimension. They leap off the page with all the drama and mystery the written story is lacking. As I said, with a ruthless editor, a pared down version of The God Hunters, combined with these illustration would make a graphic novel that would be hard to beat. The drawings alone almost gave this story a 3 rating but in the end, the novel’s dense, mind numbing narrative defeats itself and the reader. What a shame.
Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht. The artwork is beautiful. I just wished the novel deserved it.