This week, the CFBA is touring Wedgewood Grey: The Black or White Chronicles: Book Two by John Aubrey Anderson. Last week, I went ahead and threw in an extra review of book one as well, and eagerly picked up book two after I finished it.
Let me say, Wedgewood Gray stayed consistent in it’s craftsmanship as Abiding Darkness, which my regular readers may recall nearly drove me up the wall, despite the fact I actually loved the story. Anderson is still a masterful storyteller. I’m just not always the biggest fan of story telling and prefer fiction written from the perspective of one or more view point characters. It’s the way I craft my stories and I’m not sure it’s my place to knock a technique I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag with if I had to or perish.
So facing a decision of either letting the techniques employed drive me nuts or just ignoring them and enjoying a pleasurable read, I did that latter. As a result, I don’t have a detailed analysis.
Besides a few bits my critical eye still noted as sloppy, mostly related to dialogue/thought tagging, the biggest issue eventually worked itself out. About fourths of the way through the story, I reached a chapter that felt like two manuscripts had fallen on the floor, one of them being Wedgewood Gray, and the pages from the second got mixed in by accident. At least that’s how confused I felt until, late in the passage, it turned out Anderson had decided to take a break from the main narrative to explain what had happened to two characters we hadn’t seen for about two hundred pages. So it worked out, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only reader that doesn’t like being left in the dark like that.
Speaking of being left in the dark, Anderson includes a few scenes late in the book where, with the apparent intent of building suspense, he opted not to clue us in on who the speakers in a scene were but leave us guessing. Having gone through this book primarily as a reader, it irritated me, and as a writer, I’d like to humbly suggest it may be unwise to build suspense at the cost of irritating the reader.
Still, though I took this one much slower than the others, Anderson does know how to hold his reader and keep us coming back for more. His style is much too omniscient for my tastes, yet he manages to make the reading experience nevertheless a pleasant one, which I’d say shows skill and talent.
I do have to note the dog did far less talking in Wedgewood Grey than he did in Abiding Darkness, for which I am most grateful. We have another skeptic turned believer, but this time the transition stayed well within the limits of my suspension of disbelief. My only question is why no one tested the lake water. Considering the phenomena the locals all blamed (correctly) on demons all took place in fairly close proximity to the lake, a person with a ‘naturalistic’ world view would want to conclude a hallucinogen had seeped into the lake and poisoned the suddenly crazed killers. Obviously, such explanations wouldn’t hold water under close scrutiny, but it surprises me no one investigating this wanted desperately to cling to such safe, rational explanations.
But I have been known to pick apart the “logic” of such exemplars of rationality like the classic Pinky and the Brain, and the above question amounts more to a minor curiosity on my part than serious criticism.
As I’ve said, in terms of the passage of time, it’s smooth sailing until you reach the troubled waters near the end of the book, but the trip is pleasant enough to make it well worth sailing through. And if I’m not too keen on the rapids, and I enjoyed it, I suspect that says something.
It did raise a question for me theologically. Scripture is quite clear on “thou shalt not lie.” I understand why Mose runs, the old south was short on justice for minorities, but wouldn’t assuming a false identity and similar tricks amount to a violation of that “little” commandment? Yet I suspect this book will be criticized for the level of violence long before critics ask questions about Mose’s integrity.
If you don’t care for scenes that pull up the veil on the angelic and demonic hosts, you’ll be glad, because there is relatively little of that here. Of course, if you do want a Perreti style spiritual war, you’ll be quite disappointed, because we only “see” them (except for a demon possessed person or two) early on.
As I said last time, don’t let my misgivings lend a false impression. Wedgewood is somewhat darker in tone than it’s predecessor, but has a quiet strength I find difficult to put into words. Unless you have a weak stomach or a problem with spiritual wars involving the use of carnal weapons, you may want to just experience it for yourself.