Rory Macaraeg,
The Fifth Dimension
(Outskirts Press, 2008)

David is from Earth, in the future, and he is sent in a spaceship on a mission to a distant part of the universe. His elders have detected evidence of advanced beings on a planet in this distant region, and David is to investigate, to see if these beings are benign or malevolent.

What David finds astonishes him. He finds an Earth-like planet, inhabited by people (homo sapiens) and dragons, right out of Earth legends, and magic and the metaphysical are much more advanced than technology, especially amongst the dragons. Even more astonishing is that David seems to fit the mold of a long-prophecied hero from another world, come to either save everyone, or destroy them all.

I really enjoyed several aspects of this book. The premise was creative and ambitious, with the author really trying to take the book in a very nontraditional direction for fantasy. The characters and the setting were very well-described as well, and several were quite sympathetic, namely Alfred (a human) and Sigfried (a dragon). It was also clear that the author really put his all into this book. He pulled no punches and reached outside of the box.

I really wanted to like this book and be able to give it a positive review, but there are just too many flaws to be able to stay positive. The author is a physician, and I believe this is his first published work. He also had no editor, I believe, and I am sympathetic to that scenario, as I recently published my first work without the assistance of a professional editor. However, I accepted the offer of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, and that is what he will get.

First of all, I believe the author might have tried to put too much in this book, leaving it overlong and confusing at times. Many different entities are mentioned in the book (e.g., Eternals, Elementals, Elders, Time, Destiny, Mother Nature) and it would have been helpful to have a chart, like a table of organization, showing the relationships and different degrees of power of these beings. I also found it hard to keep track of where David fell in this hierarchy. He is human at first, and seems nearly god-like later on.

While I liked several of the supporting characters, notably Alfred and Sigfried, I found the protagonist, David, to be impulsive, lacking in insight and arrogant. Yet many of the other characters glorified David naively.

There were problems with the writing itself, too. There are abrupt changes in point-of-view and perspective, creating confusion for the reader. There are also problems with verb tenses not always matching, or shifting in mid-sentence. At times, there will be 12 or 15 words in a sentence, where the same idea could have been expressed clearly in seven or eight words. That is part of why this book is 384 pages when it could have been 300, without losing needed content. Octavia Butler gives a perfect example of efficient wordcraft in her Wild Seed, where every word of every sentence of the entire book adds to the story in a meaningful and necessary way. John Steinbeck also did this in Of Mice & Men.

Orson Scott Card wrote an excellent little book on writing science fiction and fantasy, including topics like universe-building and how to make magic seem credible. The Fifth Dimension does not follow those "rules" of credible magic, as David's supernatural abilities, at times, make him almost god-like, yet he lacks the wisdom, judgment and insight to keep him from being incredibly dangerous.

I wanted to like this book, and there are good elements, but it needs a good proofreader and a good editor to go through it and trim it down, and make some changes, to end up being as good as it could have been.

review by
Chris McCallister

29 November 2008

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