After Life by Daniel Ionson
Here is my second book review of authors who follow me and/or reach out to me. Fyi, if you contact me directly rather than passively follow me, you are bumped up in the priority list. On to the review.
What I enjoyed the most about After Life was definitely the world building. There are hints at other languages and cultures, possibly even races that you don’t get a full look at in the course of the book. This is good for a few reasons. First, it gives Ionson plenty of room to explore his world if he sets another book here. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, it gives the reader what I’m going to call “the illusion of depth”. This means that you get the impression that there are whole histories that you are not privy to which the characters are. It lends intrigue and mystic to a world.
It is obvious in reading After Life that Ionson is a fantasy fan. Not only is his world building good. He’s made some interesting choices plot wise. I thought the plot was fairly nuanced with a good use of foreshadowing for the various plot twists. More on the twists later; I promise not to get too spoilery. For now, I’ll just say that the more convoluted it becomes, the more you can look back and think “oh, THAT’s why that weird comment was made!”
I have two critiques to the book. First, the smaller of the two. While the world building is good, the characters struck me as slightly two dimensional. I think this was mostly to do with Ionson’s mild tendency to tell rather than show. This tendency faded over the course of the book. The end result was that the characters’ introductions lacked the nuance of the world building. All of the illusion of depth that exists in the world building simply isn’t there when the protagonist comes on the scene. Again, this problem largely resolves itself by about 25% through the book, so it’s a small critique.
The main problem I have with the book is the monster motif. Ionson created what could easily been seen as an original monster type. Unfortunately, he then uses a common term for his monster rather than inventing a name. This term has a lot of preconceptions associated with it. I found this use to be counter-productive to his overall plot, because my own preconceptions about this monster type jolted out of my suspension of disbelief. He would have been better served creating his own term rather than attempting to work in existing monster motifs. If he had done that, he’d have gotten a full five stars rather than 4.5.
Over all, I would recommend this book. It is a fun, enjoyable read. I look forward to Ionson’s future offerings to the world of fiction.