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  • K.Pimpinella

SPSFC2 Semifinalist Review: Melody, by David Hoffer

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.

The review …

I can’t say this is a perfect book, it did suffer from an issue or two, but in the end, the story and writing transcended its problems. The story is well executed, well written and well paced. And the protagonist is a rich and deep character brim full of agency, flaws, conflicts and even humour.

The other protagonist carrying the malevolent side of the story, was equally as interesting and conflicted. Although I could have done with a little less of her anticipating losing her job, both these characters were people stuck in situations that they weren’t prepared for, and handling them the best they could with what they knew through their experiences. And without being 'told' by the author, their experiences expertly backed the decisions they were making in the story. I may not have agreed with some of the character's decisions, but I could understand why the characters made those decisions, based on who the characters were.

It’s not about ‘liking’ or even agreeing with decisions made by characters, it’s about believing the characters would actually make those decisions based on their background and experiences. And the author 'showed' this well. I didn’t like a certain character’s redemption arc, but it was believable that the characters that gave it to her, would do that. That means the writing is strong.

Melody also exhibited a strong beginning, middle and end. There was no being sidetracked by extraneous backstories of characters or situations. Everything flowed forward and blended into the story seamlessly.

Of course, like I said at the beginning, this wasn’t a perfect story. But these issues were singular and therefore do not distract from the enjoyability of the story. And here be spoilers … Hudson’s immediate rudeness screamed cliche. Delores arriving at the White House where the president and all the heads of every acronym’d department are waiting for her and she arrives with what could possible be, and they all suspect, is a Dooms Day Device, that has already ‘radioactified’ part of the Nevada desert. And she’s just carrying it in her purse. And the security at the White House gate, who has no idea she’s coming (??), looks at what is described as looking just like a bomb, and simply says sorry, ‘Ya can’t come in with that. Be on your way.’ I don’t know if the author was looking for levity at the sake of believability, but this is not where you put it. Not after what seemed like meticulous details to make everything seem realistic. I can’t say whether all the science or math was correct up to now, but I believe in it all because the author did a good job making me believe everything else. So why now, throw this piece of ridiculousness into the story?

Either way, these issues did not distract from what is a beautifully written story. That was only one misguided scene.

From plot to (most) characters to flow and tension and intrigue, this is a well crafted and well written book. Story craft (inciting incidents, complications, decisions and repercussions etc.) are all there and expertly intertwined into the forward flow of the story. The prose was clear and precise. The world feels real and lived in without the author having to create, and inflict upon the reader, endless chapters of backstory and worldbuilding to make this world feel real.

This is good writing. Great storytelling.



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