American Goddesses–Gary Henry

First up, author stuff! Gary Henry has the obligatory Amazon author page, no apparent Wikipedia page, nor a personal author page. Alternately I just couldn’t find them. Gary Henry is a common name, apparently. He used to be a Navy Journalist, currently writes marketing copy and technical articles for a manufacturer of construction products. I can imagine that writing fiction novels would be a nice distraction from that day-to-day work.

I was under the impression that I’d acquired American Goddesses through a Humble eBook Bundle. Apparently not. It must have been during a “I have an Amazon gift card, I shall spend my Amazon gift card” evening.

The story (partially cribbed from the blurb): Two small-town women (Megan and Trish) through scientific experimentation find themselves with nearly unlimited powers of mind and body. Telekinesis, super-strength, invincibility to physical attack, levitation, super-speed. The blurb says that as a result their lives get complicated. Gee, really? Anyhow. They are not alone with these powers–back during the Cold War, the Soviets had extensive psychic power development programmes. Russians are apparently the easiest typecast villian. Anyhow. Apparently “things turn nasty as a shadowy organisation attempts to use Megan and Trish for their own evil ends, and destroy them, their town and the USA in the process.” A reasonable summary.

The book suffers, in my opinion, for being too short. I really wanted to know the details of this world, to have more plot exposition, to have more development of these characters. They are presented in a reasonably two-dimensional form: Megan is older, married, and her powers are causing her husband to become an alcoholic and to cheat on her. Trish is young, naive, a waitress, and a superhero simultaneously. There are such incongruities! And there is a most terrible, horrific deus ex machina towards the end of the book. Either one of two things occurred: the author wrote himself into a corner, and needed a convenient way to get out. He does this by throwing some Prelude pages at the beginning of the book, and then fills eighty percent of the pages before revisiting the prelude. Or, and what I hope was the case, had grand visions for a more well-rounded cast, introduced them in the prelude, but them didn’t have room for them in the story, or had to lose a lot of their exposition during the editing phase. Either way, it’s really jarring when it occurs (I won’t give too many details), and really pulled me out of the story. It felt horribly contrived. Introducing new characters near the end of a novel is a big no-no, and not having your main protagonists participate in the climactic scenes just seems bizarre.

The other problem is that there are plot devices that go nowhere. A mysterious organisation (the Agency) with the power to shape the political and social landscape is introduced, but it goes nowhere. It turns out to purely be a plot device that will never be revisited. There is no resolution to many of the subplots. It’s most disappointing. This novel could have easily been expanded to answer many of the questions and situations that it poses.

Having said that, the book is tolerable. It’s a bit (okay, a lot) preachy towards the end, and some of the plot devices used to wrap things up are quite hackneyed, but overall it’s quite readable. It’s a cheap ebook, and showed a lot of promise from a first-time author. I just wish that a little more time had been taken to produce a more well-rounded story.

Amazon link thing. It’s currently $0.99, which is throwaway money. My problem is that there are an awful lot of very cheap self-published novels out there. The choice is yours, I suppose.