SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Of Mycelium and Men, by William C. Tracy
As with my other reviews, this review reflects my own opinion and not the opinions of the other members of Team Escapist. Also, be warned, there are a few spoilers in this review.
First, I must mention, that although this story had excellent moments, great potential, and initially I could not put it down, the big obstacles for me to overcome with loving this book was with the opening, and closing, scenes. For the openener, it was a list of characters. Why do I have to read this? Does the author not feel confident that they were able to create memorable characters? Did they feel the reader would not be able to keep the characters straight? Was the author not sure they introduced or explained their characters well enough in the story, so they felt the need to explain who everyone was first? Was it simply fun to write it all out? Honestly, I don’t like being given something to memorize, or study, in order to read a book. Something like this belongs at the end where, if, a reader wants to peruse it they can. Placed at the beginning, it makes me feel like I’d be missing something if I didn’t read it. I also don’t want to feel like I might have to revert back to this list throughout the book to verify who a character is. That should be in the prose of the story, or something might be wrong in how the story and characters were developed in the book.
That said, I actually didn’t have to revert to this list at any time, because the author did write his characters well.
To start … PG 67 of 353 pages- a new world was introduced, literally. Although excellent timing, and well executed anticipation to this point, there was no known antagonist yet. Still, just chapters filled with information, conversations, but no actual tension, complications, action, driving force of an overall plot. It’s still leading into the actual plot, and it’s taking it’s time.
Halfway through, the story started to drag. It was the same thing- biomass problems. Conflicts and complications were too few and far between and resolutions became repetitive- keep building. And the ‘family-planning’ plotline started to drag as well, and didn’t really progress the story plot- to which is kind of lost at this point. Was it just about how to colonize a planet with a biomass? How to create a colony on a foreign planet? That’s tech-manual stuff, not a story.
When I read the line, wherein Christiaan texts to Jane … ’So business as usual,’ that pretty much summed up how the book was feeling at this point.
Part of the problem is chapter recognition. What is a chapter? A chapter is not just a means to segregate conversations or devulge information or change POV. More needs to be in there. Unfortunately, Mycelium, suffered this fault. But … it’s a really good story. It just needed to weed out a lot of stuff to make it exceptional. Or at least, have it organized better so that each chapter contained more than just information sharing, or moving characters from A-B, or a means to get the reader to know somthing.
Streamlining it with less POVs might have also helped.
Other than the opening pages issue, the other big problem I had with, Mycelium, was that the last line, or two, rendered the entire book into an over-bloated introduction to a story. I feel like the author missed the story. The story isn't how they landed, it's what happens when they make actual contact with the biomass. This was supported by the fact that, contrary to an entire city being built on an alien world, nothing actually happened for most of the book other than the same obstacles (dressed in different clothing) happening over and over again.
Then there was the false tension, aka click-bait, concerning the nukes. The nukes weren’t mentioned again until much later, even though that was a HUGE piece of excitement. And when the nukes were mentioned again, it was glossed over. And then it was very quickly revealed that it was joke anyway. And what could have been the most interesting scene, stealing the so-called nukes, was done off-screen and by secondary (if the not third-tier) characters, and was passed over in a sentence or two.
World-building, and day to day life of characters, seemed to be the book's priority, and then it rushed through an ending where it skipped whole years so the author could lay down the last line. Unfortunately. the last line felt like a cliche tactic, simply meant to make the reader want to read the next book, when it's the book they're reading that they should be invested in. I don’t want to finish a book thinking … wow, now I’m ready for the actual story! I want to be thinking … wow, that was great. What’s next?
This book kind of saddened me in a way, because I think the author is very good, and he develops characters well, and the story itself is very interesting, but for me, it got lost by starting too early.