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(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)Whiplash is a ‘sharp’ story—it goes right for the throat with neither apology nor restraint both in content and style. Short, piercing sentences, darker vocabulary choices, basic metaphors that don’t leave you much to ponder, and a narrative that dives right in from page one without any sort of lead-in. You’ll be introduced to young Jack at the outset, but you’d better make sure you strapped in before you cracked that cover, because you’re not going to see the “keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times” warning light come on again. That said, I can’t possibly have come up with a more appropriate title for this book!
At first glance you might be a bit off-put by the somewhat cliché idea of ‘young person suddenly thrust into a fantasy world’, but I ask you to stay your concerns and give this book a chance. To be honest I really don’t even like using the word ‘cliché’ when reviewing new content because, like most buzz words, it’s overused and has outstripped the original meaning; now often peeled from the backing paper and applied to any work that isn’t 15465887789.492% original. Folks, really…everything’s been done before. The thing to look for is innovative ways of mixing up existing ideas, and in that, Whiplash succeeds admirably. The use of dreamscapes, the sudden left turns that toss you across the deck when you think you’ve found your footing, and a good shuffle of character types keep this ball rolling, or dribbling…or hurtling through the air towards a barbed-wire fence at Mach 1.
As for criticisms, our hero, Jack, didn’t really pop for me overall. Call it a matter of personal preference, but I was sort of hoping he might grow past the snide commentary and saucy one-liners as the stakes rose. Perhaps that’s my own fault—expecting a young man who was never really intended to be a white knight to begin with to mount his horse at some point. Hopeless romance won’t help you much on this ride, I guess. Other than that I feel the author did not disappoint in the bold employment of first person/present tense, save for a few bits here and there where characters who are in the moment seem to know a bit more than they should for their perspective. In fairness, it’s a very bold way to construct a novel-length piece to begin with. Hats off.
Whiplash is a high-octane caffeine high, not a subtle journey through complex flavors. The latter may be golden for some, but I think we could all use a blast of the former from time to time. If that’s what you’re looking for in your next story, then by all means I recommend it, but it may not be to taste if you’re going in looking for a deep-developing, paced-out epic.