Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Homecoming by Sue Ann Bowling

Homecoming follows the story of several characters of different origins. Some of these characters are slaves, some prominent leaders. The book follows the stories of these characters, the choices they make, and the fears they face. All of this takes place many thousands of years after our current time, when an alien race, the R’il’nians, the R’il’noids, and Humans coexist. Intelligent life has spread throughout the galaxy, spanning many planets. The fate of the Confederation, a coalition of many of the planets, is uncertain, as it needs a proper heir for leadership. The current heir is corrupt, unloving, and unkind, and Lai, the father of this heir comes to understand this and the need for a better solution. The R'il'nians and the R'il'noids also have a few special powers that I won't spoil here, but they add a good element to the story.

The Good: One thing about the universe of Homecoming that I really enjoyed was the universe. The author thought it out well and made it very real. The R’il’nians were an alien race who were overcome by a plague called Kharfun. This almost completely obliterated the race. Through crossbreeding with humans, they were able to sustain their race. However, the relationships formed with the two races also led to the acceptance by many of slavery. As I read the book and understood the well-realized universe envisioned by the author, I was impressed. This aspect of the book is what captured my interest the most.

The Bad: The author clearly defines the characters within the book. There is no doubt as to their personality traits, as described by the narrative. So what makes this bad? Despite the good descriptions of the characters, the dialogue between them lacked the same differentiating impact. When every character speaks, I couldn’t help but feel like they all spoke in the same manner. Yes, they are different characters, but the demeanor and personality shown in the dialogue made it feel like everyone was the same. If not for the narrative explaining the characters so well, I would have had a very hard time reading this book, because everyone would have seemed like the same person.

The Ugly: All fictional books need a good story. While Homecoming’s story has a lot of potential, it fails to deliver. The whole time I read the book, I kept trying to figure out its focus. What was the story the author was trying to tell? Throughout the book, the focus seems to shift. And just when I felt that I understood where it was going, the focus changes. I didn’t even understand who the main character in the story was until the very end. And even then, the ending leaves nothing conclusive to help you feel as if this was where everything was leading. It’s unfortunate, because with such a well-realized universe, the potential for a very interesting story is there. Instead, a bunch of things happen, and you walk away from the book not completely sure why they mattered.

Overall, I did like reading the book and understanding the universe. Was it a page-turner? No. Was I motivated to finish the book? Yes. But not for the reason I should have been motivated. My interest in the story didn’t move me to complete it, but rather my wanting to move on to a new story did.