Sunday, October 15, 2017

Book Review: 'Audrey of Farmerton' by M. Gregg Roe


Tennessee author M. Gregg Roe is originally from Columbus, Ohio, earned his PhD in Physics from Ohio State and worked at a government lab and in aerospace before finding employment at a small company in the recycling industry. He has lived and worked in Virginia and California and now lives in Tennessee. His leisure activities include cycling, anime, travel, reading (primarily fantasy and hard science fiction), and is avid Dungeons & Dragons DM and player. AUDREY OF FARMERTON marks his debut into the literary scene.

A man of both deep intellect and a framer of fantasy, Gregg has stated on his blog some aspects of this initial book of a series that help the reader - ‘I started writing my fantasy novel, Audrey of Farmerton, in the third person and the present tense. Because the story is told from a single viewpoint, I could have written it in the first person, but I decided against it. That was partly because the planned sequel would have multiple viewpoint characters, and partly because I wasn’t comfortable writing as though I were a teenage girl. Why did I change from writing in the present tense to the past tense? That’s complicated. First let me give some examples. Present tense: He is writing a blog post. Past tense: He wrote a blog post. Past perfect tense: He had written a blog post. The present tense provides more of a sense of immediacy–“She opens the door and leaves in a huff.” as opposed to “She opened the door and left in a huff.” Present tense can work well, especially when there is a great deal of action. It also has the advantage that referring to earlier events can be accomplished by simply employing the past tense. On the other hand, the majority of fiction is written in the past tense. That is what is traditional, and that is what I decided I should employ. The past tense is easy to write in, with one major exception. Referring to earlier events (outside of dialog) requires the use of the past perfect tense. This involves a great deal of “had” and “been”, and maybe even the dreaded “had had”. This is something that I am still coming to terms with. One way to reduce this nuisance is to use past perfect in the first sentence of a paragraph and then switch to past tense, possibly returning to the past perfect at the end of the paragraph to make things clear to the reader. Writing every single sentence in past perfect may be grammatically correct, but it can be tedious to read.’

After a brief poem Gregg opens his story with the style of writing that makes his book so intriguing to read – ‘Audrey’s first thought was, There’s no pain. That means I’m dead. And there really is an afterlife! But it felt to her like she was in her own bed. She opened her eyes and it certainly looked like her room. There was a wood vase with fresh water lilies on the nightstand to her right and it looked to be about mid-morning, judging by the sunlight that slanted through the shutters of the one small window. She could even hear the muted sounds of her mother singing to herself, which she often did while cooking. But it had to be the afterlife. Audrey could feel that she still had both her legs, although the left one did feel odd. And there was no pain! After she was attacked, it had been nothing but pain. Her entire world revolved around pain. None of the remedies that the villagers gave her helped at all. The slightest movement of her left leg was agony. She couldn’t sleep. She could barely think. Her only rest had been when the pain became so bad that she actually blacked out. Her last memories were of searing pain and a leg sickly-colored and swollen with infection.’

This long first installment in his series pleads for summary and that he offers as follows; ‘Growing up in a poor village in Andoran’s Realm, Audrey’s only goal was to move somewhere else. Anywhere else. An incident involving a group of young adventurers provides her with the means to get herself to the fabled Witch’s City, but nothing goes quite as planned. The city is daunting, filled with magic, intrigue, and an assortment of odd characters, not all of them human. Audrey finds herself in a living situation that is both unexpected and awkward. She struggles to adjust to her new life as she seeks to acquire an education, make friends, and find romance. And along the way she discovers her life’s calling, something that she had never expected.’

Perhaps the reader my be reminded of Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but Gregg goes much further into the realm of fantasy while keeping his sculpted characters credible. This is an impressive beginning to a series that doubtless will attract all manner of readers. Grady Harp, December 16









Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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