Look out for that tree! A review of “Stolen Climates” by Aniko Carmean

photo courtesy of Pascal Maramis at Flickr

What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?

Not much to report this week.  Finished the first draft of a rather disturbing short story about a man who is convinced (perhaps rightly so) that aliens are trying to ruin his life.  Will be polishing it up and sending it out soon.

What does the future hold?

Hmm.  Not sure, but I think I’ll put in another excerpt of travelogue from one of my trips to Mexico next Friday.  It will be a traveling weekend for many of you (although probably not to Mexico), so why not?

But without further ado…

From Amazon.com

Genny thought her hallucinations were from lack of sleep. Then her daughter started hearing the trees talking, too. Now they are being hunted by a cult who wants to use them in a deadly ritual. As Summer Solstice nears, carnivorous vines grow out of control, the sacred orchard dies of blight, and it isn’t safe after dark. Can an acquaintance with his own set of debilitating issues, a renegade goddess worshiper, and an axe save Genny and her daughter?

Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.

My overall opinion: While there were a couple of troubling aspects with the writing, overall, I really enjoyed Stolen Climates.  It was fast-paced, visual, and refreshingly original.

To get the shortcomings out of the way, the biggest thing that jumped out at me came as a result of teaching Creative Writing.  I’ve always been a stickler for point of view, and there were several moments in Stolen Climates where the point of view would shift back and forth in the middle of a scene.  I know that this was unintentional (mostly because I spoke with the author about it) and a result of making sure the audience knew how someone else in the scene was feeling about something, but unless it’s intentional (and I dare say few writers can masterfully pull off third person omniscient), these point of view shifts end up having a bit of a jarring effect on the reader, even if they don’t necessarily recognize why.

My only other complaint is a minor one.  As I mentioned in last week’s introduction to my interview with Aniko Carmean, she has an amazing way with words.  She is truly a wordsmith.  However, there were moments in Stolen Climates where her prose-esque style stuck out, either sounding unnatural or being too convoluted.  Either way, these few moments were enough to draw my attention to the words, temporarily taking me out of the story and wondering why she had chosen to describe something in such seemingly poetic terms, where a simpler description would’ve been less distracting.

However, I was easily able to overlook these minor issues because of the story itself.  The biggest plus of this novel is its originality.  I’ve heard that the story has roots–no pun intended (you’ll have to read the book to get that one)–in Mesoamerican mythology, but like any good author, Carmean has made them her own (and the genesis isn’t common enough that most people would be familiar with it, such as the Percy Jackson series, for example).  While there were scenes that had tinges of familiarity to them (I was reminded at one point of the freaky tree from “Poltergeist”), those tinges were as far as it went.  Whether intentionally or not, she played off some common themes just enough to spark recognition without forging an imitation.

[For more on the story background, check out Marie Loughin’s post on Stolen Climates]

Also, as I mentioned in my overall opinion, there are some great visuals in this novel.  Whether it is the sacred orchard, the small town café, or the just the small town of Breaker, Texas, itself, there are some amazing scenes that are still clear in my mind’s eye several months after finishing the novel (yes, it’s taken me a little while to get to this review, but I think that speaks volumes for the staying power of the settings into which Carmean has breathed life).

Another thing Carmean handles well is her characterization.  As the father of a toddler, the scenes with Linnae, the three-year-old daughter, read very true to me, and the little girl gave an energy to the story that served its purpose as a focal point sometimes and a distraction others (and like a toddler often is for a parent, sometimes that distraction came when you were trying to pay attention to something bigger going on.  Kudos to Carmean for making that work).  Genny, Linnae’s mother, has her own issues and Carmean handles them well, taking the reader from being sympathetic to being frustrated with her (at least I was… often feeling bad for her husband).  Prentice (the aforementioned “acquaintance with his own debilitating issues”) was something of a mystery.  While I really liked his character, I struggled a bit with him.  Not that everything has to be resolved, but there were some pretty big unanswered questions I had about him and his actions in the story.  But again, intriguing.

There is a whole other cast of characters in this book, and again, Carmean did a great job of bringing them all to life.  Even the minor characters had a sense of fullness to them that made the reader interested.

Then of course, there’s the biggest character: Mother Nature.  But you’ll just have to read to see how she fits into the story.

Just a word of advice: Look out for that tree!

What do I want from you?

Have you read Stolen Climates?  What did you think?

Plot originality seems a rare commodity these days.  What’s one of the most original stories you’ve read?  Or the most original take on a common theme?

You can find Stolen Climates at Amazon.  Click here.

Finally, don’t forget to check back next week if you’re not too engorged for a little bit of South of the Border entertainment.

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14 responses to “Look out for that tree! A review of “Stolen Climates” by Aniko Carmean

  1. Hey George of the Jungle–great review!
    This sounds like something I could really sink my teeth into. I love the way Aniko puts words together. It will be interesting for me also because I know her as a true sweetheart–and this story does NOT sound sweet. Looking forward to meeting this side of her. And happily–I have a copy from the Coffin Hop. Ahhh–kudos to the hop.
    Thanks again Paul :)
    Pen

  2. Read it, reviewed it, loved it. I noticed some of the POV shifts but they didn’t feel jarring enough to really bother me. Have to disagree on her prose, though – and I’m sure that’s just a matter of taste. I never felt that it really got in the way of the story and felt that it painted the picture for the scene(s) rather well. I do admit a certain admiration for well-crafted prose, though, and that might be coloring my perception a little.

    Very interested in reading the new short story. Sounds intriguing.

    • Hey Jonathan,

      Thanks for the comments. I don’t know what it is about me and POV; it’s just one of those things I notice. And with her prose, I really love the way she puts words together, and most often it was exactly as you’ve said, she “painted the picture” well. It was just a few scenes where I really wasn’t sure what she was trying to convey and I had to stop and re-read the passage.

      But again, all of this was minor in comparison with my overall feelings for the story.

      And thanks for the words on the short story. It was one of those, “out of compulsion” type stories, you know? Like exorcising a demon or something.

      Hope all is going well with Room 3.

  3. Erik Gustafson

    Thanks for the great review, Paul. This one is on my TBR and I am very excited to get started with it. If only I could read faster!

    • Preachin’ to the choir, brother. Preachin’ to the choir. My TBR list still has some books I won at LAST year’s Coffin Hop. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Thank you for the review, Paul! And thank you to everyone who has read or wants to read my story. That is the whole reason it exists: for you!

    -aniko

  5. Great review, Paul. I loved ‘Stolen Climates’, and would recommend it to anyone. I think Aniko’s shaping up to be one heck of a writer, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her!

  6. Hey, Paul. How are you doing, brother? It’s been too long. Thanks for the review. I just picked up a copy of this book recently during the Coffinhop and look forward to getting started reading it. A great Thanksgiving week to you and yours, my friend.

    -Jimmy

    • Hey Jimmy, thanks for stopping by. Life is good. Pretty hectic still, but looking forward to a few days off to spend time with my family.

      Glad to hear you have Stolen Climates. Hope you enjoy. And I hope everything is going well for Flash Point. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

  7. I have Stolen Climates safely tucked away and will be reading it during the holildays!

  8. Jason Darrick

    I just won it as a result of the Coffin Hop, good to know I’ve got some good reading when my TBR shrinks.

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