Stephen Wilson’s first novel, The Gifted. Book One: In the Beginning is an ambitious undertaking. It’s got alien civilizations, xeno-derived narcotics, world war, associate pastors moonlighting as pro-life vigilante ninjas, kidnapped children, unscrupulous Bio-Medical Companies, Secret Labs, super-powers, and Divine Intervention. *whew* That’s truckloads of potential coolness.
Unfortunately, the scope is a bit too ambitious and Wilson’s story winds up resembling a six-lane collision of comic book storyboards. Let me explain why.
In Orsen Scott Card’s “Characters and Viewpoint”, he states all readers approach a novel with three fundamental questions: So What? – Oh Yeah? and Huh?. In other words, the story has to solicit their concern, be credible, and be clear. (And it’s got only the first 5 pages to hook them in – 10 if the reader is feeling gracious.) With multiple themes, backstories, a big cast of characters, and a bouncing narrative, Stephen Wilson has a lot of plates in the air. As a result, none of the story elements stick around long enough to answer those questions and lock in your attention. Putting aside the minor typos, (including one on the back cover) redundant description and dialogue, the novel’s pace alternates between sluggish and twitchy and characters end up looking derivative and two-dimensional. The novel’s important themes never get the full attention they deserve and slip between the cracks.
Now I give props to anyone writing a full-length novel, let alone finishing one. It’s a labor of love, a massive investment of sweat and passion. But, as all our writing teachers told us, “A good book isn’t so much written as it is re-written.” Like I said, Wilson has a ton of great ideas here, but The Gifted needs another run through the Editor’s Gauntlet of Steely-Eyed Corrections.