Unseen: Chronicles of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal (or U:CotRSfIotP for short), by Kate Gray, is a book with one of the longest titles ever. It is about a branch of Imperialist British Military in India which presumably investigates the paranormal.
Why I Picked It Up
I’ve been trying to review this book for a while now. It’s title sounded interesting and its cover looked promising despite its clearly budget-conscious nature. It’s also FREE on Smashwords!
What I Like About It
I’ll start with my favorite thing: The Voices. Characters and Narrator really sound to me like 19th century dudes. That’s important in a period piece. The setting is also nice and, once it begins, the plot hooks you with quite a nice little scene involving scamming some Hindu villagers.
I saw what could have been a clue as to the emergence of vampires later on (vampires really turn me off), but I’m not being slapped across the face with them, which is good. Vampires are BEYOND played out; they really define what it means to be undead in that they just won’t die and leave our fiction alone!
But exploring a new angle on vampirism (say from the point of view of Hindi legend as opposed to European) might be tolerable.
What Could Be Better, If Anything
I’ll start with a nitpick: While the voices make their characters believable, some of the characters’ actions are downright anachronistic. We are TOLD early on (another no-no I’ll cover later) that one General Lord Major-Plot-Figure treated his wife as an equal and lets his daughter do whatever she pleases. We are also reminded how this is unheard of in late 19th Century English Society, and how odd the three of them are for it.
But we’re never told why. What makes him so special?
* TANGENT ALERT *
Outside of a few forward thinkers, people are products of their times—Thomas Jefferson, widely revered as the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, owned a boatload of slaves. I also hear he was a pretty cool guy. Slave ownership is wrong. And every society does things that are wrong, but that doesn’t mean that EVERYONE who does those things they’ve been raised to do (and may not have been allowed to participate in society unless they did them) is a 100% bad person.
It’s OK to have a sympathetic character who does some questionable things—hell, it’s actually GOOD.
* TANGENT OVER *
But the biggest area for improvement in this book is the first four or five pages. They should just be cut out, almost completely. It’s all exposition, and aside from one to two necessary details, it’s basically flavor text. It sets the scene and tells us about the characters through the guise of the Main Character reflecting on all these things during a stroll through camp.
And it’s boring. So boring, but also unnecessary. Murder the darlings, darling.
The best way to give the audience information, in almost every instance is to SHOW them! Because once the characters start doing things, we learn WAY more about them than those four pages told us.
I think I’m gonna pick this one up. Page 4 is where the plot actually begins, and then it gets good. You can start reading from there and not miss much, and once things start happening it’s pretty good.
Have you read this book? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about it!