52Under2: The Ironlane Detective by Paul F. Witham

The book I am reviewing this week for 52Under2 is The Ironlane Detective by Paul F. Witham. It is about 213000 words long and is available on Smashwords for $2.00.

This post is both late – because I had to flee my unheated house over the weekend – and short – because I was unable to force myself to finish reading the book.

Based on the fact I couldn’t finish the book, you can probably guess that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a shame, because I got the feeling that there were a lot of ingredients that the author had at his disposal – not least the mixing of a steampunk era world with generation ship era technology – which could have been brought together to make a pleasing whole. They weren’t.

My dislike of this book can be narrowed down to two main problems:

1) Omniscient or inconsistent POV. The 3rd person POV dives in and out of each of the two main characters’ heads willy-nilly. Also, even when we’re staying in one of the character’s POV, that character will constantly refer to himself as ‘the detective’ or ‘the alien’. Just doesn’t work for me.

2) What is the point? I had no idea where the story was going. There were no outstanding questions that I felt a burning need to have answered, which is why I felt so at ease with simply tossing this book aside. After the first action set piece, they two main characters have to go somewhere to meet someone. Um, OK. It’s a pretty vague and unstructured plan. It’s not even like they’re really being chased or dodging pursuit. I could maybe get behind the idea of the detective needing to go to the city, but why is the alien hanging around? Pretty much because his spaceship nagged him to. The story fails to convince – on a number of levels.

Overall, I’d give this book 1 out of 5. I couldn’t even get past the 20% mark.

4 thoughts on “52Under2: The Ironlane Detective by Paul F. Witham

  1. Paul F Witham says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it. But thanks for giving it a try. I think if you’d gotten past the 20percent point it might have at last engaged your interest, as the story really opens up. But I guess the fault lies with me for not writing the earlier chapters better. Anyway, I’ve taken on board the criticism.

  2. JO CROWTHER says:

    Good of the author to respond so politely……..after all his efforts to compile a book to receive a review from someone who has not even read the complete item.

    To open a review with a moan about a faulty boiler ( we assume ) is unfair on a guy who probably spent years writing this book …….. very unprofessional behaviour from a fellow author.

    • Hi Jo,
      I’m sorry that you feel that way.
      I did appreciate Paul’s polite and measured response. As someone who has written and self-published a book myself, I also appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating such a thing.

      Here are my responses to points raised by your comment:

      1) Reviewing something that I haven’t read all of.
      I was upfront about not having completed the book. I did not pretend in any way that my opinion was based on the whole thing. My reviews are about my subjective responses to a book. Being unable to read past a certain point in a book is a valid reader response to a book. My review attempted to explain why I could not push on through.

      2) The mention of a faulty boiler being unfair to the author.
      I didn’t see it this way. You are, of course, entitled to your own reading of the situation. However, I feel that the half sentence that mentions a faulty boiler has nothing to do with the author, it is there to put some context on the timing of the post. At the time this review was written I was keeping this blog to a fairly tight schedule. The purpose of this sentence is to explain to people who may have been expecting the post to appear on Saturday morning, why they were actually getting it on Monday afternoon.

      I reserve the right to dislike a novel and the right to say on my personal blog why I dislike it. You reserve the right to dislike my post and the right to say in the comments why you dislike it.
      With that in mind it seems that all is well with the world.


  3. Paul F. Witham says:

    Well, thanks for that post, Jo. Erin’s criticism of my novel isn’t strictly speaking totally unfair. Erin asserts that one flaw of the narrative – this being in the portion that she read – is that “It’s not even like they’re really being chased or dodging pursuit”. That’s an entirely valid point. Some of even the best novelists suffer from this problem of not giving sufficient impetus to the actions of the protagonists. It’s all helpful stuff, criticism, even if it’s not really what you are wanting to hear.

    Having said that, I’m pretty confident that The Ironlane Detective will find its audience. Here’s a heads-up for anyone interested: It’s full of middle-aged blokes drinking in pubs, riding on steam trains and being pursued by assassins, robots and hybrid human-synthetic beings. There are various punch-ups, the alien guy talks about the cosmos and mankind’s place in it – and a big scene at the end where everyone runs around and does stuff. And it’s brilliant.

    It’s on the Smashwords’ Premium Catalog, so everyone and their grandmother’s now selling it. And now it’s a matter of waiting for sales and feedback. I only stumbled on Erin’s site because she’s the first to actually give it a mention. Like any writer, I’m vain.

    Any way; thanks, Erin. Thanks, Jo. See ya.

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