Review of Afterworld (Orion Rezner Chronicles #1), by Michael James Ploof

AfterworldI downloaded a copy of Michael James Ploof‘s novel, Afterworld: The Orion Rezner Chronicles from the Amazon free list. (However, I had it mislabelled and picked it up to read thinking it was a request. Sorry requesters, I meant for this read to be one of yours.)

Description from Goodreads:
Seven years have passed since the Culling of 2033 which killed most of the world’s population. Vampires, werewolves, and demons have begun to emerge from the shadows, and they are hungry. Boston, one of the last vestiges of humanity, is protected by a spell shield created by the Wizard Council. The shield is the only thing keeping the city safe.

Having studied the Craft for two years at Harvard Witchcraft and Wizardry, Orion Rezner embarks on his final rite of passage. But his first mission outside the city walls forces him to make choices he wasn’t prepared for. Narrowly avoiding possession by an ancient demon, he learns of a plot to destroy the spell shield and expose its survivors to the horrors outside.

Suspected by the wizard council of having been compromised by the encounter, Orion is unable to convince them of the danger. With the help of his closest friends and ghostly mentor, Orion sets out on a desperate quest to thwart the demon’s plan any way he can–before it’s too late to save the city.

Ummm, it was Ok I suppose. I wasn’t all that impressed, but I didn’t hate it either. I think my issue stems from the fact that I’m not sure where the book falls genre-wise, therefore I can’t decide if my expectations were skewed or not.

This is post-apocalyptic. An orchestrated mega-virus seems to have wiped out most of the world’s population and a large chunk of the remaining humanity are stigmatised and seem to live in some Mad Max rendition of future Earth. It’s set in 2041 (or there abouts), but all the pop references are from the 1980s and 90s, making it feel contemporary even as it’s futuristic. So, Sci-fi maybe? But then there are witches, wizards and priestly mystics performing exorcisms. (Apparently there are vampires, werewolves, unicorns and so on, too, but you don’t see any.) So, fantasy or even urban fantasy maybe? Then there is the monkey named Dude and a disturbing number of fart jokes/references. Are we then in a humorous novel? The main character is at least in his mid-twenties. (He has a college degree and a 2-year apprenticeship.) But he speaks like a frat boy, slash, surfer. Seriously, it was all “wayyy,” “Hell to the yeah.” Plus the book is full of Harry Potter like magic. So, is it YA? NA? They curse, so maybe even adult? I have no idea.

So, not knowing how to categorise and therefore think about this novel is a problem. But so is the fact that it just feels very random. We catch up with Orion on the day he takes his final test to become a wizard. Then we follow him as he runs around and does a lot of essentially random stuff. In the grand scheme of the series it might all have a place, but in terms of this book, we aren’t given enough background to understand his choices and situate them in an overarching plot-line. As a result, I never felt engaged with him or cared that much about him and what was happening.

This was exacerbated by the fact that he was just so dumb. I know that in his narrative some of that apparent stupidness was self-deprecation, (and some of it’s actually pretty funny) but he did a lot of really unintelligent stuff, even when he should know better.

If I was a 16-year-old boy I might relate to Orion and like the book more than I did. The writing was fine and I don’t remember much about the editing, which means nothing stood out to me as wrong. I think this is just a case of not quite the right reader. But as I didn’t hate it either, I’ll give it a grudging “grunt of approval.”

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