2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Bryan A. Tranka’s Dead Wave has one of the most inventive settings and most idiosyncratic set of characters I have encountered in a book, film, or TV series in recent years. It’s so unfortunate that various writing and editing issues failed to provide a solid grounding for what could have been an epic, thought-provoking piece of fiction.
Dead Wave takes place in Tranka’s vividly reimagined version of Purgatory where beings called energosomas (or what could be labeled as spirits, ghosts, or ghouls) dwell. The story introduces several characters but mainly follows an enigmatic energosoma called the Baroness and her crew of misfits referred to as the Naysayers or the Nays. When a powerful object is stolen from an energosoma titan, the Nays set off in pursuit of the thief. However, there are other parties involved, pitting the Nays against elements far beyond their expectations, leading to confrontations that could potentially destroy the balance of their world.
As best as I can tell, that is the gist of the story. While it sounds straightforward, the endless expositions about the physical landscape and the other denizens of Purgatory made the narrative progressively convoluted. Dead Wave defies conventional writing by being neither plot-driven nor character-driven. Instead, it's so heavily world-driven. The setting is the focus of the book, and everything that happens seems to occur for the sole purpose of exploring the world and introducing the reader to the creatures who reside in it. The backstories of the Nays, revealed in flashbacks during the course of their escapades, were the few bright spots that brought some semblance of heart to the story. These were the things I looked forward to — getting to know who the Nays had been while they still lived and gaining some insight into why they are stuck in Purgatory.
Tranka’s vision of Purgatory (and the energosomas) is undoubtedly an astounding feat of the imagination, but it was just too much information (and characters) crammed into a single book and mercilessly foisted upon the reader. The details were more alienating than immersive, and there were unnecessary phrases that bogged down the story’s pace (e.g., repeated mentions of the length of a character’s nails). I could imagine Dead Wave finding more success as a graphic novel as many elements that were so overwhelming in textual form might be more tenable in a visual medium. At the very least, some illustrations (e.g., a map of Purgatory) could be included in the book to help readers envision the world a little more clearly. The book is also in dire need of another round of editing. Comma splices, confused words (e.g., it’s vs. its, lie vs. lay), and spelling errors (e.g., decent vs. descent, clever vs. cleaver) were present throughout.
As the first book in a trilogy, there is ample time for Dead Wave to redeem itself, especially with a good artist and editor working alongside the author. In a revised form, I’d be happy to recommend the book to fans of dark fantasy and those who are interested in the concept of purgatory/limbo, both as a place and a state of existence. However, the story also contains gore, violence, and a bluntly written scene depicting the sexual assault of a child, all of which may be disturbing for other readers.
I rate Dead Wave 2 out of 4 stars. There are great elements here that would have made for an outstanding story — if only the writing had been clearer, if only the narrative had focused on a few key characters, and if only the editing had been thorough. The line between mind-blowing and mind-numbing is thin, and while Dead Wave straddled the boundaries for a moment there, it fell significantly short of the epic book it could have been.
View: on Bookshelves
Like inaramid's review? Post a comment saying so!