Charles P. Shanks,
A Mythical Man
(PublishAmerica, 2004)

In A Mythical Man author Charles Shanks begins what he describes in the subtitle as "The Saga of Wilhelm Horst von Dirksen." When we meet the protagonist, Wil von Dirksen, he is a German infantry officer in the trenches in World War I. He has issues with his father and is generally respected by his men. After some sparse story development he manages a transfer to the air corps. It is while flying on a mission that he is magically transported to the land of Varn -- an otherworld populated by a miscellany of not-so-strange races and characters including amazons, trolls, dwarves, goblins and dragons, with a few wizards and the like to round out the mix.

I'd like to say that A Mythical Man is a creative take on any number of cliched fantasy scenarios and plot devices. Unfortunately, it is not. I'd like to say that A Mythical Man is an example of excellent writing that is traditionally overlooked by the mainstream publishing outlets; a shining example of the power of self-publishing. Unfortunately, it is not.

The story is hackneyed and unimaginative. What passes for plot development is a series of convenient, contrived and predictable devices. The characters are one-dimensional and barely relate to themselves, much less each other or their environment. They tend to be a collection of stereotypes drawn in crayon on construction paper. Sometimes they are cut-outs that are attached to each other with big globs of white glue as the dialogue is needlessly stilted and unnatural, even for a fantasy novel. The narrative is banal, poorly constructed and doesn't serve the story. Frankly, it reads more like footnotes extended over several pages.

What would sound like a difficult read is actually made worse by the lack of proper grammar, punctuation and clarity of voice. If I had a nickel for every extraneous comma or passive voice construct I would be able to retire early. At best, A Mythical Man reads like the transcript of a badly dubbed foreign documentary. At worst, it reads like a badly translated foreign children's book.

Honestly, however, the author does not bear the full burden of responsibility for many of the issues that made it into print. PublishAmerica purports to provide editorial oversight on the works that it publishes. If that is true, then the editor of this work needs some serious career counseling (possibly at the end of a pink slip) and PublishAmerica needs to review its editing process.

- Rambles
written by Frank Blair
published 23 July 2005

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