The One by B.A. Sherman is the second novel in the Greg Dorn series. After the climax of Book One, Dorn wakes up disoriented in a hospital room. His wife, meanwhile, is told that her husband isn’t dead, and a man claiming to be her husband who doesn’t look at all like him. Dorn is the product of a vicious experiment to create a superhuman killing machine, held captive by a diabolical General. Dorn needs to escape his captors and reunite with his family – a family who don’t even recognize him.
After The Test, this is an interesting direction to take the Dorn character, and puts The Test in a different perspective – as a kind of superhero origin story, rather than a tale of a cop gone bad, which is what that novel seems on first take. A reader might want to go back to The Test, knowing this is where the Dorn series is going.
However, The One has some of the same problems as the first novel in the series. Though the book is written at a fairly rudimentary level, almost young adult, or even middle grade, Sherman frequently throws in profanity, as if this is the best demarcation between a book for adults and younger readers. As a reader who’s not averse to profanity, it comes off as jarring in this novel – it seems to come out of nowhere. Sherman uses profanity in a “show don’t tell” sort of way – the main detail showing that a character is upset. Someone who uses profanity every time they’re upset is a certain kind of person, so it seems out of place when a character is not entirely supposed to be very hard-edged.
Another similar issue is the level of detail. Though Sherman has no shortage of imagination, the plot arc seems more like a sketch of a story without getting into important information. For instance, early on in the novel, Dorn’s wife, Mari, is told to come see a man who’s claiming to be her husband, and is part of a “government project.” The agent doesn’t explain much more than that, which is a somewhat cartoonish idea, and detracts from the novel’s overall realism.
The author has the tendency to cover very big topics very quickly, when the narrative has the space to slow down and not adversely affect the momentum of the story’s arc. Sometimes a book moving quickly can be too fast for its own good. What is here, then, is more like an outline of a story than a full-fledged novel.
As stated, Sherman has no shortage of ideas, and that does carry the book, it’s just left to the reader to fill in too many blanks. Sherman is much better with action than setting up the story and characters, so once Dorn makes his escape, the novel rolls along much more successfully.
Make no mistake there are lot of interesting elements here: government projects, a man trying to restore his identity and reconnect with his family, and well-drawn bad guys who you want to see their demise. Scene by scene the novel is well put together, it just skimps too often on the details.
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