Monday, 21 October 2019

What Once Was Home by B.K. Bass - A Book Review

What Once Was Home

A Book Review

The Cover Page

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

What Once Was Home by B.K. Bass, described in a nutshell, is a wonderfully imaginative science fiction title with a survival twist. Akin to post-apocalyptic titles such as titles from The Walking Dead universe or the Halo universe, this book really drove home the apocalyptic themes of dread and dismay in its opening chapters.

Beginning with an alien invasion seems to assign this book a certain genre convention that is hard to tackle. Alien invasions, in general, are almost often followed by the doom and gloom of far superior technology; pitting humans against almost insurmountable odds. My hanging criticism of alien invasion stories is how humans still, through some miracle, win against these odds with no regard for how realistic (I use that word loosely here) winning would be. Instead of What Once Was Home following with this trope, B.K. Bass has written an interesting spin on this trope that - in my opinion - works for this story.

The book begins by introducing us to our lead character in a distant future; an old, war torn Jace. Immediately after this introduction, I imagined that the book would focus on the aftermath of an alien invasion that had been won; giving more attention to factions of warring humans opposed to the invasion itself. This was an opinion I held through the opening Prologue but an opinion that was quickly shattered by the introduction of Jace at a very young age. This was something about the book I was not a huge fan of as, for me personally, it expelled all concern I would have for Jace's fate throughout the story. Right from the start of the book, we know Jace must survive in order to be an old man. This fact about the story was only strengthened by each chapter opening with autobiography segments from a book Jace would go on to write at a later age. 

Focussing more on these segments, overall, I enjoyed them. These sections, while reinforcing that Jace survives throughout the book, help set up storyline expectations for each chapter. This worked in favour for Bass as it allowed for him to shatter these expectations and write in plot twists throughout each chapter while laying seeds for story arcs later in the book. These segments help to fuel a burning desire to learn how the plot points of the chapter play out, opposed to the norm of wondering what each plot point of a chapter will be. In this sense the segments and the chapter titles work in unison to fuel this desire to know how rather than to know what. 

What Once Was Home can be praised for getting us right into the action come Chapter One. I like how Bass writes in terms of descriptions and how the story is told. However, the pace of the book is inconsistent chapter to chapter and the book moves too quickly from one scenario to the next for my own liking. For example, the time jumps early on in the book's chapters are fairly large compared to the time jumps between chapters later on. This quick pacing of the story also make some parts of the story feel told, rather than shown. To me, I feel as if this can take away from the character development in the sense that the readers need to be shown characters as much as they are told about them by the writer. This is only a slight criticism and by no way deducts from the enjoyability of the book in any major way.

Expanding upon the tell not show criticism, the book can feel narrated at times which can conflict with the 'live action' sequences written into the novel. However, this narration style works in conjunction very well with the autobiography segments. In this sense it makes the book feel as if a person is telling it which is the general vibe I get from the book at certain points.

Talking about the main charater, Jace, for a moment, he is well written, well described and follows certain tropes expected of a character of his calibre. He is consistently portrayed as an ultimate good which can be a bit cliché at times but stays consistent with his character profile that Bass has built up. The only thing about the character that I dislike is that it took me a bit of a stretch of the imagination at the initial introduction of Jace at such a young age. While the things Jace does in the earlier chapters are doable by a fourteen year old, I felt as if fourteen was too young of an age for the things he did and the things that occurred to him to be realistic. One example being Jace's interaction with the military during the opening chapters. 

Then we have where Bass shines; the alien antagonist. The aliens and how Bass has written them in this book is by far the most enjoyable and strongest aspect of the book. Having an alien invader that is both dangerous and fragile is a hard thing to do but Bass nailed it by having the aliens fragile as individuals but a force to be reckoned with in large groups. The conscious choice to have the aliens dehumanized in this book leads our main characters and us as readers into complex moral dilemmas later on in the book; moral dilemmas that aid in fleshing out both the protagonists and antagonists.

Our main antagonist, besides the alien threat, is a human we meet later on in the storyline. I was not a huge fan of how this human was introduced as their introduction felt a tad rushed and their backstory - I felt - needed another chapter or two to flesh them out accordingly. The main antagonist also falls victim to the cliché of being portrayed as an ultimate bad and due to how this character was introduced as well as how their backstory was handled, I struggled to connect with the character on a human level. While Bass succeeded in creating a villian that is the hero of their own story, I feel that he needed to delve deeper into who this character is and allow us as readers to get to know the character much better. My main criticism of the villian being that the character played into clichés and this stole away from building him up as a complex character.

To summarize, this book is an enjoyable read and a must read for any fans of the science fiction or science fantasy genres. Any fans of post-apocalyptic stories will also find a homage between the pages of What Once Was Home. I'd love to bring to the forefront the accuracy and niche knowledge of military based jargon and tactics that Bass brought to the book; this was a nice addition. However, the book does fall short when it comes to representation as there were no LGBT+ characters or strong female characters. All of the main leads, be in protagonist or antagonist, were male. I can also see this book being the first in a series to flesh out lore and characters as it does a very neat job of worldbuilding. Overall, certainly worth a read and can't wait to pick up another title from Bass!

What Once Was Home will be available for purchase on and after 25th October 2019 from Kyanite Publishing here.


No comments:

Post a Comment