I’ve decided to do a series of posts offering my review of recently-published books, with a focus on indie authors. This post is the first of the series. I’m reviewing Sand and Scrap, the first novel of the dark fantasy series ‘Dregs of the Culver Waste’ by Chris R. Sendrowski. At the time of this post the book is only available as an e-book.
This author, I think, likes Dune. If the sandworm wasn’t a dead giveaway, the use of the word ‘melange’ in a phrase spoken by a wizard certainly was. Nothing wrong with that; Dune is currently my favorite science fiction novel. In many ways the world in the novel resembles Frank Herbert’s desert world Arrakis, but more prominently it resembles the post-industrial hellscape of George Miller’s ‘Mad Max’ films. Slaves toil in impossible conditions, there is radiation and mutation and the abandoned scraps of a now-dead civilization, but the story finds place for more traditional fantasy aspects as well. There are wizards of sorts, spells and curses, and mystic monsters roaming or hiding in the landscape. The post-industrial aspect gives allows stand-ins for fantasy races as well. A Tolkienesque world would have its men and elves and dwarves and goblins, but this world has humans in stages of mutation depending on their place of origin. It’s a smart way to present an alternative to more typical fantastical races.
The world is hideous and brutal, and very well designed. As far as fantasy goes, I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. The story within the world is quite good as well. Most of the major characters are memorable, and the situation they are drawn into has suspense and dangers and obstacles to overcome which make for a very interesting adventure.
One trouble with Sand and Scrap, unfortunately, was that it felt terribly unpolished. There were mistakes in the writing, lots of them. The prelude the worst for it. The mistakes get to be less frequent as the reader gets closer to the end of the book (and in the final thirty pages there are almost none), but even so, I cringed every time a word was misused or a punctuation mark misplaced or a paragraph improperly indented. There is a difference between a hyphen and a dash, and there is a difference between “it’s” and “its”, but errors in the use of these are all over the book. These problems could have been resolved by editing, either by the author having an independent editor or by the author putting in the painstaking hours to take care of all the edits himself. It’s a long and frustrating process, but this book needs it badly. I hope I haven’t upset Mr. Sendrowski by saying so, but this is what the book needs. The further books of the ‘Dregs of the Culver Waste’ series need to be more polished. They need to feel complete, as opposed to two drafts short of complete.
The story also contains what could certainly be read as a lot of homophobia. I was uncomfortable with in the same way that I am uncomfortable finding casual racism in books from, say, the Victorian Era. However, I don’t know exactly how the series is going to develop. Homophobia can be an aspect of the hellish wasteland without the series necessarily being homophobic, just as rape and misogyny an aspect of Westeros in George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ while the series itself is not misogynistic as a whole. I’d prefer to withhold judgment regarding the prevalence of homophobia in the Culver Waste, but as it stands with just this one book, I have the impression that the book might just be irredeemably anti-gay.
Another problem is the way the point of view works. The reader is jolted back and forth between several different points of view (which is not a problem), in many cases put into the point of view of a new and unknown character who the reader has no reason to be invested in (which is a problem). This happens throughout the book, and the way it’s done is very disorienting.
To summarize, I really enjoyed the setting and I thought the story was fairly good, but the high number of writing errors in the text and the way point of view operates were real problems.
Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: