Latest read ... Fugue State by Steffan Piper ... oh, wait a sec ... that's me ...
You may have heard countless times in your life that authors shouldn't review their own books because it's usually an open door for a lot of gratuitous back-pattery and other forms of self-aggrandizement. I've heard that, too. And while I carefully hawk all my reviews far and wide, and have appreciated the good ones and laughed out loud at some of the bad ones, I'm going to review my own book regardless. It's a necessity and maybe a moral imperative at this point.
I need to tell myself a few things about what I'm doing that I'm not happy with, because I wish to do better, tighten up and internalize my weaknesses so I can digest them as completely as possible. Doesn't honesty always lead to growth and greater understanding?
Fugue State (2012 - Amazon Publishing) was moderately successful, earning back its advance and even made decent money during its initial release. The subject matter was that of the hero's journey told through the memoir framework of my real-life experiences through the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm. A lot of folks have loved the book, lauding the book with very thoughtful reviews as well as a small handful of negative ones; all of which I am thankful.
First, while the subject matter was out of the author's control as to which book he wrote first, and in which order, I'm left wondering about what exactly happened directly after the ending of the previous novel Greyhound when young Sebastien, then 12, was left recovering in bed at his grandma's house in Altoona, PA. The gap between the two books is a little too long and the reader is left to constantly wonder what happened in the eight years in between. (1)
Second, the opening section of Fugue State occurs in Eagle River, Alaska and while mesmerizing, perhaps the entire book should've taken place in this one setting and tell a more expansive story of what was going on prior to joining the Marine Corps, as I'm sure, like real-life, there was. Another hundred pages or so would've worked nicely. I would've actually liked to have had more character time with John McCandles as he was wonderfully memorable.
Third, the boot camp section was done incredibly well and honestly the high point. I found myself transported over to MCRD San Diego, 1989 the whole time both laughing out loud and nodding to myself thoughtfully. This was the book that it should've been, and highlighted better by being more compartmentalized. This could've been book two from the point where Sebastien joined, through when he returned home later in the book.
Fourth, while as the reader, and the listener of the audiobook, I understood completely what Piper was doing with the development of the sexual relationship of the character and doing so to highlight the staccato breakdown into Post-Traumatic Stress, the author might have been served better scaling back the graphic nature of the material. If no one told you this, Mr. Piper, then let me do this now. Everything has a place in the book, as does sex, just do so in moderation. Seven sex scenes in and I'm wondering if that much was warranted. While a lot of modern authors lean heavily and delve this ground, and there is no real penalty for doing so, just because you can, but that doesn't mean you have to. I did enjoy these things, but just consider my words next time. (2)
Fifth, be careful of homogeneous characters as there were a few. One lesson you could take away from the listening of the audiobook is the realization that you should describe the sound of what each person sounds like perhaps, and build on that. Saying someone has the vocal similarity to Bill Clinton, Tom Waits, Forrest Gump, zydeco playing Cajun Dr. John, etc. can make a big difference in the variety of voice in both the head of the reader as well as the narrator in the audiobook. Something to strongly consider from here forward for you perhaps.
Six. Titles are everything, my friend. While I've heard through the internet you wanted to title this Shit Bird which would've definitely been more interesting and direct, leaning on titles that people continually showed an inability to pronounce should've been a red flag to you, good sir. Yes, I imagine you are an obsessive perfectionist, who doesn't seek perfection as much as he does grace, but you must pay attention to this stuff. Remember that day when that musician asked you what a "Fugue State" was? Yeah, that should've been enough.
Honestly, it's not a bad read and it keeps the reader glued to the page the entire way through, even at 440 plus pages. Some people couldn't put the book down from the moment they opened it and stayed awake for 24 hours doing reading binges. They even stated as much in reviews, but just remember that when you're not a household name, hitting folks with 400 pages becomes dangerous territory. Just a thought.
I loved the fact that this was a story about the author's life and that the bulk of it occurred as written. The continuing story of Sebastien Ranes is fascinating and sometimes a shock as we always learn that the differences in the lives we lead and the way we are raised can some days make the hairs on the back of one's neck stand on edge.
Well done, Mr. Piper. Please do better. Strive to continue to tell engaging stories and do so both effectively and succinctly. Look forward to reading your coming books.
I can only hope that Fugue State IS NOT Steffan Piper's Pinkerton, but only time will tell.
Steffan Piper / Sebby Ranes.
(1) This book is actually close to being finished and is currently titled Come Up Screaming.
(2) The Seven Hundred Dollar Raincoat, released 8.8.13, continues along the lines of being more adult in tone and content.
Labels: Fugue State Greyhound pinkerton Sebastien Ranes Sebby Ranes steffan piper The Seven Hundred Dollar Raincoat