SPSFC2 Review of 'The Trouble with Love' by Maurice X. Alvarez and Ande Li
As is always stated, this is my personal opinion and does not reflect those of other judges on Team Escapist.
Portal through time and space. Romance, jewel heist, espionage and a charismatic protagonist. All things promised on the back cover blurb, and all the ingredients needed for a great story.
For the most part, these were met and the story did keep me interested, but there were a few small things that got in the way of my full enjoyment right off the start. The quotation marks used to denote an alien language were actually confusing and distracting. Chapters are way too long. And there are several typos/grammar issues. As for the storytelling itself, it starts off as more of a fantasy novel, but hold on, it changes when we hit Io. And this is where I started to get excited. Let the adventure begin!
But … after a good fight/escape scene, everything kind of came to a grinding halt.
Unfortunately, for a story that utilized prose well, there were some issues that did not sit well with me in both the science and, eventually, the protagonist and world-building.
For all the work done to capture rich, diverse worlds and aliens, the actual aliens and cultures were basically the same as they are on Earth. Their differences appeared to be in aesthetics alone. And I’m pretty sure the science is off for an avian race to exist as they do, and be able to move just as easily on a planet as humans do. Gravity would be a complication.
As for the protagonist, Kormer, it is stated that he is approximately 14 years old by standard Earth/Terran years. Yet, he is sleeping with married women and chasing a love interest who is the Chief of Police. That does not resonate with me. Which actually brings about the problem I saw developing with Kormer as I continued to read past the 20% mark. Eventually, he came across as a Gary Sue- the male equivalent of a Mary Sue. The perfect character. Even Kormer’s faults (which are hard to find) are admirable and he can smooth talk his way out of everything. He’s cool, calm, collected and gets away with everything. This type of character is very hard to relate to or even root for- which, ultimately, there wasn’t much rooting to do since he always got what he wanted.
At a total of just over 600 pages, the middle of the book became a seemingly endless struggle to get through that it came to the point where I didn’t care what the end was anymore. The protagonist is unbelievable and unrelatable in that he’s too young to be doing what he’s doing, including trying to date the chief of police at 14 years old. I wasn’t sure what the main plot was anymore, one of two heists or a romance? And I don’t think it was intentional, but the society class of the alien culture is represented by the colour of their feathers with white being upper class and dark/brown being lower class. It doesn’t sit well whether it was intentional or not. Also with the alien culture, it isn’t very alien outside of its aesthetics. Jobs, language, justice system and everyday life seem to just be a mirror of human cultures.
This book is in need of some content/developmental editing to help bring the ‘real’ story out from the multitude of chapters depicting a sort of day to day life of the protagonist. As in, chapters that didn’t further the story along. The middle build just dragged on for so long that I lost interest. Overall, the plot lost it’s way and it took too long to find it’s way back. On top of that, and this seems to be a sticking point for me, there was no defined antagonist. I had no idea who or what Kormer was fighting for, or fighting against. There were some bad people around, but they weren't involved enough in Kormer's life to feel like there was any tension or threat. And if I had to wait till the end to experience it, then that's too late.
Perhaps another judge from the team may disagree, but the fact that I became bored in the middle build, and couldn’t finish, makes this book a ‘no’ in my opinion. I will not be moving it forward in the competition. But I will say this ... LOVE the cover!