Thursday, June 8, 2006

Book Review: RIFTS - Sonic Boom

I've been wanting to read this trilogy since I first heard about it back in, what? `99?
But no local booksellers carried it, and I procrastinated actually ordering it. Ever.
I finally convinced my local library to order it.
The first book, RIFTS: Sonic Boom, came in just a few days after I suggested it. The other two are still on order.
This book is set in the world of RIFTS, a Palladium Books Role Playing Game. The story is pretty good. Interestingly, what I would consider the "bad guys" of the RPG are the main protagonists here. Showing that, even though the "Coalition" as a whole is the "bad guy", there are still people within that are perfectly normal and just trying to make a living in the world into which they were born.
As I said, the story is pretty good. Lot's of mecha combat, some magic combat, lots more mecha combat. Plus plenty of character interaction and back-story on some of the characters to make us care about them and make them more than just cardboard cutout military grunts.
However, the editing of the book is horrific. It's been said that Palladium Books suffers in-general from poor editing, but this is just plain bad. 
In addition to misspelled words, there are entire words missing - maybe entire phrases. Words are capitalized that shouldn't be (someone was using a search and replace function and wasn't paying attention). Sometimes a paragraph will start with a space, a comma, and then the rest of the sentence. Characters names are left out sometimes where it's obvious they were supposed to be placed (almost as if the author wrote the book, leaving blank spaces for characters he had yet to name and intended to go back and edit them in, but missed some places), and the same thing sometimes happens with items also: "Dave used the  to dig a trench" (to make up an example). 
Scene transitions and character points-of-view transitions are frequently executed poorly within larger scenes, making it difficult to follow the action sometimes. In fact, in a few places it seems as if a paragraph or two of action was left completely out. I expect a few minor editing mistakes in any novel I read, but this is a poor presentation for a good product.
These books were not, I believe, released in main-stream booksellers, but were limited to specialty shops (hobby/RPG stores, maybe comic shops), and direct order from the company.  I think the author assumes the reader is familiar with the mecha, weapons, devices, locations, and general world-setting of the RIFTS megaverse. The author does not spend much time describing many of these things, just calling them by name (NG-V10, UAR-1, X-1000, SkyKing). Sometimes the basic description doesn't even come until after the thing has been mentioned several times.
This isn't a bad thing if you're familiar with the setting, but someone picking this book up because it has cool cover-art (it really doesn't) might be at a loss. And the cover-art; it depicts a Coalition trooper (what most of the main characters are) wearing battle armor, backed against a wall, large rifle in each hand, one discharging. The art is quite cartoony, and seems slightly out of proportion, almost squished.
If you can make it past those (huge) shortfalls, the story more than makes up for them.
Oh... I wanted to mention my favorite character: "Kro Mar" the young dragon. This guy so wants to be a big bad, or even just a competent dragon with a hoard of cool things in his lair. But he always gets in way way over his head, or just make silly mistakes. It's quite entertaining. His plot-line is left for the sequel to wrap up. I hope it does so in a satisfying way.
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