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General Fiction

  • Life in Motion

    by Michael McCullough

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: A novel that reads like memoir, Life In Motion chronicles the hitch-hiking travels of a couple of college boys in the mid 1970's. As they make their way from upstate New York to Big Sur, then up the Pacific Coast and finally across Canada, they encounter a variety of people in their travels.

    Prose/Style: There are moments of descriptive detail about the landscape that verge on the poetic. But too much of the text is devoted to lists of minutiae: what the narrator put in his backpack, and how many peanut butter sandwiches he had to consume before getting someplace where he could buy an actual hot meal.

    Originality: The narrator is inspired by On the Road, but the missing element is the rejection of middle-class values embodied in Kerouac's narrative, and the absence of a Dean Moriarty-like Dionysus figure is keenly felt as one reads on. The haiku interspersed throughout the text are well-crafted and are a nice touch.

    Character Development/Execution: The author convincingly re-creates the mindset of a few college athletes of the era. Sean and Paul are preoccupied with drinking, smoking weed and getting lucky with the surprising number of attractive women who are not afraid to invite two guys into their car.

  • Streets of Golfito

    by Jim LaBate

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: In the early 1970s, Peace Corps volunteer Jim (Diego) travels to Costa Rica, hoping to improve lives. There he meets Lilli, a beautiful young girl who undergoes a shocking act of violence and who will need Jim's help in ways no one could have anticipated.

    Prose/Style: LaBate convincingly and painstakingly depicts the small Costa Rican village in which he lays his scene. The past tense third-person omniscient narration is somewhat static, with not enough dialogue to convey a sense of interest and immediacy to the tale.

    Originality: Streets of Golfito is a heartfelt account of youthful idealism in a simpler age. Based on the author's own experiences, the novel deals with cultural identity and a young man's attempt to change the world for the better.

    Character Development/Execution: The relationship between Lilli and Jim (Diego) is delicate and is tenderly portrayed. The characters could be more complex, in order to sustain a plot that holds few surprises.

  • Family Illness

    by Evan Wechman

    Rating: 5.75

    Plot: Wechman’s plot is initially compelling and ambitious, but it is ultimately undersized and would benefit from a faster pace. Readers who like well-developed endings may be let down, and the storyline ultimately feels somewhat hollow.

    Prose/Style: Wechman’s prose strikes an appropriate tone, but can be awkward and muddled. Forced and unnatural dialogue interferes with the narrative’s flow.

    Originality: Family Illness is unique in its focus on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, the work quickly loses focus and never entirely finds its footing.

    Character Development/Execution: The characters in Family Illness are noteworthy and have potential. Steve Goldberg’s voice is intriguing and impactful, but the supporting characters are not given adequate attention to develop into their own.

  • Plot: The concept of telling the story of Moses in the form of a documentary is a promising one. Ultimately, though, the intended audience for the book remains unclear. 

    Prose/Style: This manuscript is bogged down with somewhat awkward prose. Long monologues that read like extended exposition also interfere with the smoothness of the writing and  reading experience.

    Originality: The notion of presenting historical events as news is tried-and-true. This project utilizes this conceit to often fine effect and also integrates a fresh Biblical twist.

    Character Development/Execution: While this is a solid idea, the execution would benefit from additional finessing. The newscasters speak in a way that is unnatural and may strike readers as slightly condescending at times.