"Void" Book Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Written by D Haltinner
2014, 511 pages, Fiction
Released on January 4, 2014
Void is a competently written thriller about a few college students trying to unravel the mystery behind a decades old tunnel and the shadowy void that exists down there. When the void starts to grow and people start disappearing, they know they have to stop whatever is behind it at all costs.
While competent isn't the highest praise, it is a good way to describe this first novel by D Haltinner. It has the earmarks of virginal authorship in that the dialog can feel stilted and/or unrealistic, which is something that takes time to master. I would say that often the conversations between characters seem ill suited to their ages or respective lots in life. For college-aged kids, they don't seem to speak as if they belong there, but rather that an outsider is writing their lines. While that's almost always true in any book, a polished author can make the words feel more natural, which is something I'm sure Haltinner will perfect in time.
The plot is brisk and engaging and the book is a breeze to read. There is little in the way of unnecessary exposition or unrelated/unresolved subplots. Haltinner has managed to craft an insular world with little distraction and it works beautifully for his goals. The only bits that seem inflated and unneeded center around the main character Darren's indecisiveness with his high school sweetheart and his self-flagellation and pity for being Arab in a post-9/11 world. While I'm sure there are a number of Arab descent teens who had to grow up in an every-single-Arab-is-a-terrorist society and were bullied and prejudiced, it is given far more due for little payoff than it's worth in this story. If Haltinner wanted to sell it as much as he tries to, it would have been nice to see the faction of enemy professors use that to their advantage or play it up in his interactions with police at some point; something that goes beyond a couple of brief racist discussions on behalf of some surprisingly non-intellectual intellectuals.
The ending is a bit abrupt, both in length and denouement. It wraps up with no real resolution on the character's behalf. The final battle seems anti-climactic and all too brief, with no understanding offered of why it was happening in the first place. There is a well-placed McGuffin that is played well, but doesn't make up for the rapid disposal of the creature in the void that is almost more luck than anything else. I was hoping for a touch more explanation, a touch more analysis and wits used to come up with a plan other than the "let's just go down there and see what happens" scenario we get. The protagonists are given old manuscripts of a previous encounter with the creature. It would have played better to have hints or riddles within the found text that point to a possible solution that they could then employ in the final battle and lead to a more satisfactory resolution. Lessons hopefully learned and applied to the next novel. In collegiate parlance Mr. Haltinner, I'm giving you a C, but I know you can do better.