Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Review of John Harmer’s "Ere His Floods of Anger Flow"

I admit that Harmer's apocalypse novel took hold of my mind and kept me reading. The story is about the near future, when pornography and drugs have become even more prevalent and powerful in the world. In the course of just a week or two, a perfect storm of problems arises to humble and punish the entire world, including a deadly e. coli plague, revelation of financial fraud and resultant economic collapse, acts of terrorism against the electricity supply, famine caused by genetically modified crops going bad, solar flares destroying satellites, deadly storms of hail, and I may have forgotten two or three.

Some of these plot tracks are less plausible than others, while a few of them are actually quite compelling in a must-find-out-what-happens way. The author has done some homework on things like germs, international finance, and the weather. However, the novel is definitely overstuffed with characters and subplots. While I didn't find all the subplots and their interplay with each other entirely believable, at least I didn't get too confused, and like I said, overall the novel keeps you reading.

What's lacking is writing style. In this novel, Harmer employs a fairly wordy, at times stuffy bureaucratic style, with lots of prepositional-phrase pileups, including within dialogue, for which he has a fairly wooden ear. The style reminds me of the style of General Conference talks; it sounds like my stake president writing a book. At the level of actual error, there are lots of misplaced modifiers and punctuation mistakes. I can't quite tell if the novel was self-published, but Harmer definitely could have used a better editor. Also, the novel is extremely light on concrete, sensory details; it's mostly in the mode of telling, rather than showing. Some big emotional moments come across as fairly flat, while others are better executed. At times, the point of view is a bit wobbly.

Overall, I'd say it's a must-read if you like last-days, apocalypse-oriented stories like I do. By the way, I love that the author wove in a mention of the Savior getting sealed to three women during his earthly life, and there's an appearance by one of the Three Nephites. I think a lot of people in the Church would like to weed out these distinctive beliefs and homogenize the Church into mere Christianity, so I applaud Harmer for keepin' it real.