Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: Alfred Arnold's Great Adventure of No Direction Whatsoever by Phoenix Ward

Alfred Arnold's Great Adventure of No Direction Whatsoever (The Alfred Arnold Saga #1)

27244880Alfred Arnold, reader. Reader, Alfred Arnold. Although he is the hero of our story and has no knowledge of you, I would like you to get to know him. He is an eccentric man who finds himself in the fantastic and bizarre world of Serdame. With no memory of his arrival, he undertakes the first ever expedition in the land with the help of the retired knight Sir Procrastination and the curious Lavandra.

My Take:
Alfred Arnold is a reclusive writer trapped in his burning house. His life's work was a fantasy land called Serdame. While attempting to save his precious full color hand-drawn map of the fantasy world from the engulfing flames, he is transported into the world he created, with a serious case of amnesia.

With little memory of the world he came from, plagued by debilitating panic attacks, and threatened by the denizens of outlandish creatures and characters he created, Alfred Arnold undertakes a journey with the help of the retired knight Sir Procrastination to restore his memory and learn who he truly is.


Drug Content:
PG - Some drinking occurs. A magical brew is imbibed which gives all the effects of being drunk without actually 'being' drunk, or suffering the aftereffects.  

PG - Much of the violence in this book is mild, nothing graphic. A zombie has its leg ripped off to use as a torch. 

G - There are two mild curse words in the entire book. No F-bombs.

Adult Content:
PG - Other than one incident of two men fighting madly over a sponge that appears to be a female object of 'lust', the book is very clean.

Christian content:
Nada. One cult in the book worships some deity and appears to have a practice of human sacrifice. None of which is described or occurs onstage. Some life lessons are apparent in the plot. For instance, Sir Procrastination is a personification of laziness and procrastination. The village of Villedge appears to be a lesson in isolationism, something the recluse Alfred Arnold deals with. A possessed glowing sponge appears to be a personification of lust. Revenge, greed, denial, all play a part in this odd tale.

Final analysis:
At the beginning I thought this would be a Christian allegory similar to John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress', or perhaps a crass and humorous ride like Hitchhiker's Guide, but it ended up more like Through the Looking Glass. The bizarre collection of creatures and characters in the tale, from Sir Procrastination to the Singing Zombie Chorus, seemed to lead me to believe there were allegories and personifications everywhere. But if so, many were lost on me. The world building in this book was excellent, sort of a mashup of Hitchhiker's Guide, Through the Looking Glass, and Gulliver's Travels. The characters, especially the main character, showed significant character arcs, and were likable, but not tremendously realistic.

I entered this book with some great expectations. A writer trapped in his own created world was an opportunity to take advantage of his creative genius, as was done in the InkHeart series. The beginning lines and book title gave a strong impression we were chasing an Arthur Dent clone through another inept adventure. An allegory can powerfully communicate life lessons without coming across as preachy, while a political satire,  like Through the Looking Glass, which uses some of the same devices, can expose ills in the powers that be, and galvanize a country to right those wrongs.

In Alfred Arnold's adventure, there were some traits of all of these, which might be a bit problematic as it lost focus trying to do all of them. It began well enough, but lost some steam midway through the journey, and the so-so characters and flagging pace made it difficult to plow through the midpoint. Glad I did continue, though, as it gathered steam on the downhill stretch, giving Alfred Arnold more dimension, and resolution to the main conflict. The story has a decent ending, but definitely left room for a sequel or two, and left some major questions unanswered. Can't help but feel a bit disappointed with a relatively abrupt ending that left too much unanswered. All in all, this was a good read, but will probably require the sequel for a satisfying end. Great World-building, decent plot, likable characters, but some focus and pacing issues. Four Stars!

About the Author:
Phoenix  WardPhoenix Ward is the author of thought-provoking science fiction and dark thrillers. The inventive mind behind A Guardian Angel, Oneironaut, the Alfred Arnold Saga, and the Installed Intelligence series, Phoenix captures the bizarre eccentricities that make reading unique.

When he’s not writing foreboding tales of futures-to-be, Phoenix is an avid gamer. In fact, he is the owner and primary contributor for a video game blog called Ham Goblin Gaming.

Phoenix wears pajama pants under his jeans in the winter and has a ham tattooed on his chest. He draws inspiration from such science fiction legends as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. He currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

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