Wednesday, November 30, 2016

To kill a cyclops

Cyclops Road

By Jeff Strand

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC 

Pub. Date: September 19, 2016

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars

In the prologue of Cyclops Road we see a side of Jeff Strand that isn't always obvious. We are introduced to Evan and his memories of his recently deceased wife. It is a head on assault into the experience of grieving and a profoundly emotional start to what will be mainly a humorous novel. Yet it sets the stage to understand Evan and his unusual decisions as the novel progresses.

It is this grief that is the reason he impulsively insults his boss which gets him fired. While in the park mulling his brash actions, he spots an attempt robbery . He tries to intervene but it is the potential victim that ends up saving him. He discovers that she is on a mission to go to Arizona and slay a cyclops. Most people would think at this point "OK. Bye crazy lady." and that is what Evan initially does. Yet in his vulnerable condition and his concern for Harriet the potential cyclops slayer, he offers to drive her partway to her destination...just for a little more distance to get her closer.

Of course, a little more distance isn't the way it works out and we are soon deep into a modern fairy tale. Harriet is operating by some kind of mental GPS and needs to find her three allies for the adventure. We are now in classic Jeff Strand territory with a cast of eccentrics and a accompanying dialogue that is witty and fun. The prologue rounds Evan out enough to explain his participation in a scenario that could easily have stretched the reader's disbelief too far. Harriet is an excellent foil to Evan's skepticism. She is an innocence in the ways of the world but wise and loyal to the needs of her quest. The other characters fill out the novel and present clever commentary and comic relief to the plot. I wish I could say the same about a group of villains who suddenly show up and are eventually dispersed of with only a vague explanation for their existence.

But even with a strong main protagonist, the plot falters. Even though it is a modern fairy tale, sometimes the action and motives seems a bit forced. I can blame his last couple of great novels for this. Kumquat and Blister had a similar main character who connects with a girl who has issues but brings out a strength in him. In other words, Cyclops Road tells the same story with a fantastical edge and that edge really doesn't add much. It's a great theme told by Strand that I have already read. I think I may be too harsh here since the ones who comes to this novel uninitiated to Strand's previous novels will probably go "WOW!" and several of the reviews of this book bears that out.

But it's Strand, which means you are going to read something by a skilled storyteller who has a true talent with clever dialog and wears his heart on his sleeve. That is why I liked it and give it a recommendation.

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