This week, I read Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.
For such an intriguing and compelling title and premise, I was disappointed. It started strong, with compelling characters, but then started to fall flatter as the story went on.
It’s a tale of a girl named Aria, a child growing up in a haven where she never wanted for anything, and a man named Perry, who has fought his entire life to live in the rapidly growing barrenness of the world. When Aria is thrown out of the haven after the son of a bureaucrat fucks up and burns up a faulty dome and she and he are the only survivors, Perry finds her in the wastelands, while searching for his kidnapped nephew, against all better reasons and his nature, he ends up saving her life.
I was really disappointed in it. Although she began strong, with five characters in the first chapter that could have made a fantastic tale on their own, she killed three of them off, and might as well have killed four for all of the effect that the other survivor has on the plot. She sets up strong characters in the tribe that faces the wastelands, and then only shows one of them who’s an exile anyway, because of inadequately explained tribal laws.
She does decide on an overarching plot that could be really powerful, through Aria wanting to go home to her mother, and Perry wanting to find his nephew, and peeling back the layers of both societies, and then flips around at the climax to reveal that it wasn’t anything like they’d thought, including with zero foreshadowing for the twist (and despite a twist being something the audience didn’t expect, the difference between a twist and a good twist is being able to go back and see the little things that were hinting at it all along), and then letting the whole of their goals fall apart with no visible repercussions on both of them. It’s rather like “Oh, I just had my entire view of my family and culture shattered. Time to go do something else! *dances off into the sunset without a care*” Also, in order to achieve this, instead of showing the fall out, she twists characters that before were reasonably interesting and flawed enough to be human into monsters that are easier to justify killing.
Very disappointing indeed.
It’s twists and plays like that, that remind me of why I write fanfiction, or rather, one of the two reasons. The first one, and the most prevalent one here, is “Why didn’t this twist make sense, and how can I tell the story in a way it does?”. The other one I’ll undoubtedly go into another time, but in this case, had I enjoyed the story enough and still wondered what would have happened if she’d developed along the lines that she first began with, and perhaps I would have ended up with something vastly inferior to the original product, or (in a very, very rare outcome) perhaps superior for taking the time to go back and try it a different way. Most of the time, people who do this don’t have the writing talent to pull it off, and while the ideas are sound, they end up collapsing in on themselves in just the same way as the original story.
I would most likely have the same problem.
Now this is her debut novel, and I will cut her some slack because she has the room to grow and change and find her way in story telling, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.