Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sandman by Alex Stargazer

This book sounded so good. I mean, an unconventional heroine, a mysterious entity (the Sandman), the two meeting. It had the trappings of a good bildungsroman. But, the book really disappointed me.

Now this book grew out of a an English GCSE paper. Nothing wrong with that, stories have come from stranger places, and I remember enjoying writing stories during my O Levels. But, this story is just too short.

First, is Leila an unconventional person ("everything a girl like her shouldn't be")? All we have as proof is that she doesn't want to marry an odious man in her village. Name me one girl who will gladly marry a man she doesn't like. This shows nothing about her. After all, did she take any concrete steps to get out of the marriage? No. She just followed the sound of a child's voice and got lost. All we have to know that Leila is unconventional is that the author has told us. Even though this story is short, the character building could have been so much better if Leila started her journey by defying her father rather than just getting lost. She does end by resolving to tell her father that "life was for people. Money was for cowards", but resolve is fine and dandy. Many people resolve to do things. Then they break them. We call these New Year Resolutions. Again, it shows nothing.

Second, is the Sandman the symbol of critical thought? All we have to go is by his own self-description and one statement about Adam and Even (that Adam was afraid of Eve because she knew things he didn't). I'm going to leave aside the theology criticism because the Bible (and I suppose the Q'uran as well) doesn't give us a clear motive. If you're interested, you can read this article.

To me, this isn't enough. I can call myself "the modern day Helen of Troy", but that doesn't mean I'm beautiful. Or, I can call myself "the biggest book blogger" and cite one tiny award I win, but that doesn't mean anything. To put it simply, the Sandman suffers from the same problem as Leila - they are not fully explored.

At the end of the book, the author analyses his own paper and tells you "what to take away from this." This, in my view, is a no-no. Books are meant to inspire questions, not have the authors tell you exactly what they mean. As a former Literature student, I'm pretty sure that my interpretation of any text would have been hampered if the author came out and told me "I wrote this book with this message." In my view, the author should have used the extra pages to build on the story, instead of expounding his message. Curious readers can do the interpretation and analysis for themselves, thank you very much.

To sum, the failing of this book is that it over-reaches itself. As a short story, it might work if the characters were given a bit more character, or the issue explored more fully. But, it tries to do both, and that's where the book fails - it doesn't get the chance to explore anything fully. Add that to an unnecessary analysis, and the book goes from a "short story with potential" to "a story that tries to be deep but comes across as pretentious (at least to me)."

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through BookBlogging in exchange for a free and honest review.


  1. Uh oh. I am sorry to hear that the book failed you on so many accounts. But yes, working on characters is an important part of the story and the moral of the story/ interpretation part from the author would really irritate me too. Great review.

    1. Thanks! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who feels the same way.



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