Review: The Serpent’s Head

The Serpent's Head
The Serpent’s Head by Bryan Young
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

You know, I would really like to be able to post a review of a good book on this blog. It’s been quite a while.  Unfortunately, this one is not the one.  This is the second novel by Bryan Young that I have read, and it will probably be the last. I had forgotten that he was also the author of Operation Montauk which left me disgruntled with the ending despite the excellent story and fast paced action. It would have been nice if this one was better. Alas, it is worse.

The story is a very used wild west tale, simply retold with an interplanetary frontier take. There are lots of problems with the story and the writing. There’s the tired nature of the tale itself… I felt like I had seen this b-rated spaghetti western before. There was also a heavy dependency on euphemisms in the prose despite their complete lack of fit to the situations they were used in.

For example:

The gunslinger hit the accelerator on the stolen speeder, launching him across the expanse of Glycon-Prime’s prairie. He flew far and fast toward the edge of the red desert, knowing he didn’t have long before Guerrero’s men would be on to him.

“So, can I call you Kelly now?” Zeke said to him, modulating his volume over the roar of the speeder.

“You know better than to even ask.” The gunslinger shouted, adjusting his feet on the pedals in order to keep his speed down. Now that he was out of cannon range of the complex, he wanted to give the Glick’s an easy chance to catch his trail.

He flew far and fast? No he didn’t… he slowed down so they would see him and chase him.

This quote also shows an example of a horrid tendency to say one thing is happening, but immediately say the opposite in the next two to three sentences. It was almost like it was written one way, then edited to expand it without rereading what was already there.

The characters were also shallow and self-contradictory. Their motivations and emotions were smothered in an overriding tell, tell, tell versus show writing style which often did not match their actions. The mysterious hero, Twelve, is not sure of his own motivations for acting as the hero… a fact of which you are informed dozens of times. In the end, his backstory is not even revealed, which is exasperating to me. The sub-villain, Santa Madre, was supposedly soooo horrible and did horrible things to the kidnapped young girl, Miri… yet there were no permanent repercussions to her that I could see… at least none that a good shower couldn’t fix.  The main villain who was supposed to be an angry, mean completely evil mastermind, turned out to be kind of a stupid wuss. Of course you don’t find this out until close to the end, which stinks.

All of this just constantly threw me out of the story. I’m not sure why I kept reading it other than my own tendency to need to complete a task. And it was a task.

After trudging through all that, the ending fails. It is lackluster, unsatisfying, and predictable.

I can’t even give this novel 2 stars. I recommend anyone thinking of reading it wait until it is re-released after a good edit. There’s potential for a decent story, but the novel in its current state does not live up to it.

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