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SPSFC2 Finalist Review: Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days, by Drew Melbourne

Team Escapist, has decided to hold off on posting actual scores, but that doesn’t mean reviews aren’t coming. As said before, this review expresses my own opinion and not the opinions of other members of either Team Escapist, or other judges on other teams within the SPSFC2 competition.

A humorous journey that falls short.

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days, embarks on a comedic adventure, but unfortunately falls victim to the looming shadow of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The author’s attempt to capture the essence of Adams' wit and humour, while admirable, ultimately left me longing for a more unique and distinct voice. Additionally, the prose suffers from awkward phrasing at times, hindering the overall reading experience, and certain elements, such as fight scenes and dialects, prove confusing and distracting.

Undoubtedly, being compared to the legendary Adams is an arduous task for any author, and in this case, the similarities in writing style between Percival Gynt and the Hitchhiker’s Guide are undeniable. Whether it was an earnest effort to channel Adams' humour or an homage that veered too close to mimicry, Melbourne’s work struggles to carve out its own identity. The constant comparisons to Adams' work creates an uphill battle for Percival Gynt to stand on its own merits. Even the umbrella was comparible to the infamous towel.

The prose, unfortunately, adds another layer of difficulty to the reading experience. Awkwardly phrased sentences necessitate rereading to grasp the intended inflections and timing. When the correct rhythm is not maintained, the narrative becomes clunky and off-putting, disrupting the flow of the story. The frequent need to revisit sentences interrupts the reading flow and detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book.

Moreover, the fight/combat scenes prove to be sources of confusion. Lacking clarity, they usually left me bewildered and disengaged. Regrettably, the lack of enticement to reread these scenes for comprehension results in them feeling inconsequential and ultimately ignorable aside from possibly a laugh (or smirk) or two for a cleverly written line. Furthermore, the inclusion of dialogue phonetically spelled out in accents or dialects strains the eyes and comes across more as typos than intentional stylistic choices. And, at times, even hard to read.

And don't get me started on the use of CAPS LOCK in dialogue.

On a positive note, Percival Gynt shines brightest when it veers away from its self-aware humour. The book finds it stride when it focuses on the plot and tells its story, offering a clear narrative flow. Melbourne succeeds in introducing characters and settings with coherence, (mostly) sparing readers from unnecessary side quests and mini-short stories. This approach allows for a smoother reading experience and enables readers to follow along without distraction.

Percival Gynt, while an enjoyable read in parts, struggles to escape the shadow of Douglas Adams’ iconic work. Although dissimilar in plot, the similarities in writing style, though initially intriguing, hinder the book’s ability to establish its own unique voice.

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