Julian Mahikan,
(self-published, 2003)

Julian Mahikan's novel Cryos is a story about an author whose first novel is a smashing success. To generate more book sales, the author -- a man named Ramsay -- agrees (against his better judgment) to take part in a publicity stunt that backfires and results in numerous deaths. To escape the threat on his life, Ramsay is cryogenically frozen and thawed out 300 years in the future. Upon awakening, Ramsay discovers a whole new world with new problems and new threats.

Coming into this novel, I knew nothing of the author, his previous work or the novel itself. As I sat down on the couch to dive into Cryos, with my lemonade in my hand and a pillow under my head, I found myself thinking more and more about mowing the lawn. Or giving the dog a bath. Or counting the silverware.

First of all, the book makes no effort to create a picture of the events in the reader's minds. Most of the action happens off-stage and we're mostly given the details of what is happening to our cardboard characters through the musings of the protagonist. Next, Mahikan admits in his Author's Note that after the original manuscript (written in French) was rejected numerous times, he chose to translate his work into English and sell the book in America. While not a bad idea, the translation is absolutely horrible. Either the author knows very little English OR (and more likely) the author plugged his French manuscript into some sort of computer program that translated the work for him. I spent twice as long as I should have on this novel because I had to read and re-read every page to decipher what the author was trying to say -- and I talk good English.

Here's a sample from page 74, during one of the "action" scenes:

For a split second, he did not feel anything, wondering at daytime why there were shots of a revolver in this neighborhood known to be peaceful and safe. It was his last thought. He had underestimated this area. He took another step, but in vain; his body fell down on the ground. The heat invaded the cavities burned by the balls that pierced his body probably from stray bullets. Then, the pain began. A tear ran from his eyes that pained him more; he could not even cry. He attempted to breathe some air into his lung, except the thorax had not even moved up. People around ran all over the place, hiding their faces with their umbrellas as if that would protect them. Businessmen posed their cases above their heads, leaning forward, and the ties flipped during their escape over theirs shoulders. Ramsay struggled to breathe for a gasp of air....

I think the work speaks for itself.

Now I don't believe a reviewer should just hammer an author because he didn't like their book. So, I'd like to take a moment to address the author. Do you mind?

Mr. Mahikan -- Julian -- can I call you Julian? Buddy, first of all, if you can't sell your manuscript in your native language, chances are good that it's not going to do so well in a language you're less familiar with. There's no shame in rejection -- not in the writing business. William Golding was rejected by publishers more than 20 times with his novel Lord of the Flies and that's one of the greatest novels of 20th century English literature. Now let's be honest. You're no Golding. Not yet, anyway. Here's the bottom line: As a writer, you've got to rely on your strengths, and the English language is not one of them. Why don't you translate your work back into French and keep plugging away at getting a reputable publisher to buy Cryos? You stand to make a lot more money selling a French book to a French market than you ever will self-publishing a poorly translated book to an American audience. Cryos, at its base level, is a good idea. Don't you want the best for your novel? I know that you do, or else you wouldn't have gone through the trouble of getting the thing in print. Just think about the image you're presenting of yourself and your work with this book. Is this what you want people to remember of you? Is it really?

OK, everyone come back. If you're looking for barely comprehensible storytelling, then Mahikan's Cryos is just the book for you. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, then perhaps you should save your money for more important foreign commodities -- like gasoline.

by Gregg Winkler
9 December 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.