The Manifestation of Light by Ryan A. Shimek
The Manifestation of Light, the first book by Ryan A. Shimek, starts out interesting but doesn’t manage to carry the engaging beginning over the course of the whole story and dwindles out pretty soon. It’s a book with a lot of potential that would have needed the help of an experiences editor to really shine. The good approach is often hampered by unfinished plotting and the lackluster prose. If you want to sample the book, the first chapter can be found here.
The book is about a father in a dark world whose firstborn is supposed to spend his whole life in one of four towers that generate the “forcefield” around their city. Instead of letting his son vegetate in one of these towers, he takes the newborn and makes a literal run for it. Through lucky circumstance he manages to escape outside the barrier into a barren and dangerous land where death lurks behind every corner. He gets pursued by a priest and a priestess that learn that the outside of their little paradise isn’t what they thought it would be.
Let’s get the good things out of the way first.
I like the cover. It’s a couple of steps above many other covers by self-publishers; especially first timers. The font might not be the best, but the picture is done well. It was done by Michael Gauss.
The book starts off promising. The setting is interesting without being overly unique and gives a lot of room to play with. The world at the abyss, with only one last sanctuary for humanity is nothing new, but something I always find interesting. That the sanctuary isn’t a perfect world comes as no surprise. The same goes for the protagonist, Aven. He’s a normal guy that doesn’t want to lose his newborn child to the clutches of goddess. You can genuinely root from him while he tries to escape from the city that wants to chain his son into a life of misery. That he leaves his wife behind without much thought to the woman he loves might seem strange, but Aven seems absolutely absorbed with his new role as a father. As such, the protagonist might be more relatable if you have children. To me, he seems obsessed with his son and doesn’t care for anything else, even if his actions might lead to the deaths of thousands and the demise of the human race.
The plot itself delivers and is by no means bad, but it suffers from “plotting”. What I mean with that is that about everything goes right for the characters and falls into place perfectly, even if other actions would have been more logical from the point of view of the antagonists. There is not much conflict or tension in the book even though horrible things do happen.
The characters are actually a weak point overall, as their changes comes rapid and sometimes without much reason for it. They don’t always act in character or as a normal human would, as can be seen if we regard the character of the priestess, Masol. She gets raped, but doesn’t seem to care that much. After a few hours, she’s her cheerful old personality again, already eagerly awaiting the child that got fathered during the rape. The change of the priest, Vitar, goes from one extreme into the next near instantly. He was over the board the most believable character, but his change should have been slower, so the reader can savor it. The other character done well was the main antagonist and his schizophrenia felt genuine and made him stick out from the bunch.
The main problem of the book is the prose. Not only are there numerous errors in the book, mostly of the “missing words”-kind, there is a lot of telling too, and that becomes a drag very fast. I’ve got more than 140 Notes on my kindle, with most of them being errors (as I normally highlight the errors I find). I didn’t go hunting for them. In fact, this was a book that made me skim through entire sentences or paragraphs. The longer I read, the worse that got. I normally read nearly every single word and if anything skip/skim only long paragraphs of descriptions. I couldn’t do this in The Manifestation of Light. The prose is just not on the level of many other books, even on the level of other self-published books. And the mistakes only made it worse.
The book is at the moment available for $5 as an E-Book and $15 as a physical book. While setting up my links for this review I’ve noticed that the book is shown as having 472 Pages. Now, the kindle version I have doesn’t have page numbers, but I can at least partly guess how long a book is by comparing it with others and looking at the Locations Numbers the Kindle gives me. with ~3250 Locs, it has about 1000 less than The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs I recently reviewed. That book has 320 Pages. So where does the page count for The Manifestation of Light come from? While reading I’d already noticed that it’s a rather short book and I don’t really believe that it’s nearly 500 pages long. It’s a disparity that makes me scratch my head in confusion.
Concluding: Right now, it’s not ready to be sold. I can’t with good consciousness recommend it to you. This might seem harsh and the review definitely wasn’t easy to write, but I think the book needs more edits to be a book readers can fully enjoy. Especially the errors should have been caught. The author assured me he’d go over the book again so I hope they will be corrected in the next version.