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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blue Fall by B.B. Griffith (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the book HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Brad B. Griffith was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in English and American Literature, he roamed the world a bit before returning to Denver to set up shop with his wife. Previously he's been a student, teacher, publisher, and editor, but he has always wanted to be a writer and this is his debut.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: A routine investigation throws a hapless insurance agent down the rabbit hole, into a world where the rich and powerful place wagers on the greatest game on earth.

They call it the Tournament. It offers competition without limits. It is beholden to no man, and constrained by no law, and it is extremely dangerous.

But where does the true power lie in this World Cup of warfare? With those who place the bets, or with the deadly players themselves?

And can one man expose the secret before they find him?

FORMAT/INFO: Blue Fall is 503 pages long divided over fifty-three numbered chapters with a prologue & an epilogue. Narration is in the third-person, via the following characters Alex Auldborne, Frank Younsmith, Allen “Lock” Lockton, Ian Finn, Dr. Baxter Walcott, Greer Nichols, Nikki Hix, Max Haulden, Kayla MacQuillan, Eddie Mazaryk, Diego Vega, Tristan Noel, Johnnie Northern, Takura Obata, Sarah Walcott, Ignacio Andizzi and a few minor one-off POV characters. Blue Fall reads as a standalone novel, but is the first volume in an open-ended series.

September 1, 2011 marked the Paperback and e-book publication of Blue Fall via Griffith Publishing. Cover art is provided by Julia Kuo.

ANALYSIS: Blue Fall is a book which was sent to us for review purposes, the blurb details given above do not appear that exciting but what garnered my interest was this paragraph detailing the content of the book:

The book centers on the notion of using contests between individuals to settle disputes between nations. Thousands of years ago, warring nations sent their champions to battle each other, and the outcome of single battles often settled wars. This type of fighting is immortalized in literature as well: Achilles fought Hector, for instance, to settle the Trojan War. David went out to battle Goliath. The notion of a national champion has fascinated readers for years. Blue Fall asks what our national champions might look like today. The plot is set in modern times, where war has cost millions of lives, and nations are growing weary of it. A secret group of powerful individuals creates The Tournament, a competition where the best and brightest of one country can battle those of another country.”

The above description immediately got me hooked and I was waiting to get my hands on the book to see how the author had developed this fascinating premise and what his imagination had created.

The story has a multiple POV structure, which begins with Frank Youngsmith who is woken up in his sleep to investigate the death of a scientist Bill Beauchamp, the particular surprising thing is the hike in his insurance standards that demand an investigation plus the nature of his death is anything but normal. The story then swings along with Frank’s journey as he investigates the widow and Beauchamp’s workplace that do nothing to alleviate his suspicions. To top it all at Dr. Baxter Walcott, Beauchamp’s work colleague manages to give Frank some information which blows his mind and then sets him on a path with a collision course with the people who are running the Tournament. The book then also focuses on various tournament players namely Alex Auldborne, Max Haulden, Ian Finn and many others. It gives us a vital look into their past thereby creating a vital portrait for the reader to thoroughly understand them and perhaps guess their intentions.

The story then zooms off as the latest iteration of the Tournament begins and all the teams are lined up for the draw, which is a last moment thing and then of course huge bets are laid on the outcome by various people, corporations and nations worldwide. The story basically then follows the various bouts between the teams that are made up of three individuals who hold the positions of Sweeper, Striker & Captain and the various interpersonal dynamics. The plot races along with the rounds and explodes with the fallout whilst dealing all the twists and then finally ending on its totally unexpected climax.

This book while having a dynamic premise and a different style of prose has quite a few things going for it as well a few against it. The good thing about it is that the author has taken time to establish each and every POV character. Beginning with each character’s complete back history and then going all the way until they joined their national teams, the author gives the reader compete access to their life story thereby making the reader feel a strong bond with the character. The second aspect of the story, which is exciting is that, the plot twists mostly come out of the left field and therefore it is quite unpredictable. The factor that contributes most to this unpredictability is the fact that there’s no one central protagonist and so with so many characters to follow, the reader gets quite a few different perspectives of the same events. This adds to the panoramic feel of the story and makes it harder to judge who are the real heroes. The author also is not averse to killing off his characters and this also adds to the unpredictability factor, as the POV characters are not safe either.

The foibles present in this story are that for the first 150-odd pages the pace is very pedestrian as the author builds up the characters and adds their backstories, the readers will have to persevere through the earlier part as the payoff comes in the later half of the story. The second part that really didn’t gel with me was the part regarding certain crucial explanations namely the fact that the author never really reveals much about the history or origin of the Tournament, thirdly the reason behind the selection of the main characters who represent their countries are never properly declared. What makes them so special? why were they selected? I would think in a tournament involving the use of a certain type of a gun and focusing on martial prowess, it makes sense for specialized soldiers to be the ideal candidates. But such is not the case for most chosen candidates. The author never specifically reveals these facts and so as a reader, it left a big hole in the premise of the plot. I don’t know whether this will be a big deal for many readers however since the premise of the book hinges on this special tournament, I felt that it needed to be explained thoroughly which it wasn't. Also on the flip side since this is book one of the series, the author could have planned to reveal a lot more in the sequels, but I felt that a few more background details should have been revealed in this one.

CONCLUSION: Brad’s debut does show promise with its exciting premise and plot twists, however the overall execution does not match up with its promised satisfaction. Showing potential and a vivid imagination, Brad B. Griffith is an author who showcases his talent and should he polish up the deficiencies mentioned above I'm sure he will be a thriller author to watch out for.


Bibliotropic said...

I should have a copy of this winging its way to me soon, and I'm looking forward to reading it. I seem to have a weakness for novels involving large-scale video games that have more to them than meets the eye. I definitely appreciate the review; good to know a little more about what I'm going into. I hope I enjoy it!

M said...

Hi Bibliotropic

Glad to hear of it, I hope you enjoy it too. Just be warned not to have a lot of expectations from it.



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