In Choice and Consequence of “Normality,” author Albert Oon challenges readers with a blunt and fast-paced tale of dangerous dreams and waking nightmares.
Rose, the heroine of this story, is having trouble sleeping through the night – what with the terrible nightmares that she’s been facing, which seem steeped in symbolism and prophecy, along with terrible monsters who seem determined to end her life. Reality and dreams begin to twist together, and this often-times terrifying story begins to get truly strange.
There are countless battles between Rose and unknown enemies, paranormal events and narrow escapes, set within a surreal context that never quite makes sense. The prose is very spare; it is written almost like a screenplay, where each action and line of exposition calls up a particular image, as though it is the dictation of an action movie or video game sequence. There is a distinct lack of emotion in the writing, while the pace rarely gives readers enough time for moments and events to be absorbed.
However, underlying this extremely on-the-nose narrative style is a more thoughtful theme of normality and personal identity. Rose has a decidedly rough edge to her, and a penchant for carrying a huge gun whenever she moves around the world, but her butt-kicking coolness doesn’t extend to her interactions with other people, which are decidedly awkward. The same can be said of most of the characters; their dialogue feels forces and unnatural throughout the book. There is very little subtlety in the language or the intention, which is consistent with the exposition and narration.
The colloquial slang and profanity spice up the interactions in certain moments, but it is an overused tool, and the author would do well to flesh out the characters into more interesting people, which could ultimately keep readers interested. Oon has a message to share, but it isn’t always clear, ranging from the importance of valuing your inner life to the dangers of gun safety. The plot swings wildly and without a clear endgame, and perhaps that is his intention. Violence, dreams, personal confrontations, and a flirtation with insanity all seem to be the bedrock of this story, which can be exhilarating, but also need to be grounded in some recognizable reality. It’s not that the prose is dreamlike or abstract – the author has every artistic license for a book to be symbolic or obscure – but the book is somewhat directionless.
For this book to capture and engage readers’ attention, it is important for the author to work a bit on narrative flow and the authenticity of scenes and dialogue. Even for readers who are used to the choppy, instant gratification of a video game, a bit of depth and patience in the writing will make the reading experience all the more enjoyable. There should be clear motivations for what is said and done, not just inexplicable events and plot progressions that can’t be traced back to genuine human experience. The Choice and Consequence series has a lot of potential, as does Oon as a writer, but more tweaking and polishing is needed to make this is a fully-formed work.
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