General reviews of books (old & new) that I like. I'm also an amateur writer with several stories up on Wattpad under the pseudonym R. S. Leergaard
An interesting alternate world tale told through the eyes of main character James Bentley and the translated journal of his to-be friend, Truck.
He [Bentley] arrives in this alternate reality in the standard way—through an inter-dimensional portal (there are, after all, only so many ways to get to an alternate world) he stumbles across while exploring a previously undiscovered section of a popular cave.
The first 'person' Bentley meets is the other main character, a large (about 5'6”), bipedal, intelligent raccoon he dubs [Truck] after a pet raccoon his ex-roommate once had.
The book is divided more or less equally into chapters that are labeled as Narrative of James Bentley and Narrative of Truck, as translated by James Bentley, which is where his [Bentley's] first difficulty is revealed. The raccoons do not have highly developed vocal chords, therefore their language, so to sign, is almost entirely visual. Sign language, which Bentley has to learn before he can translate Truck's journal. This the author [Boyett] explains early on.
The majority of James Bentley's narrative is devoted to introspection on himself—some initial self-pity and other emotional concerns, worry about others (including his dog), whether he'll ever get back to his (our) world and/or see another human person (female)—and speculation about how a raccoon-based culture came about and a primate-based culture didn't. This also leads to more questions and self-doubts about himself and whether or not he has anything of value to offer his new friend [Truck]. After all, he's a lit major. He could tell them about advanced technology (cars, cell phones, etc.), but he can't tell them how these things work, or even adequately draw a diagram of one.
Truck's narrative is divided between her speculation on Bentley's nature and how he came to be there, and worry about her current situation and her plans to remedy it. For Truck is a leader of one of the provinces of her world, a True Dreamer that her people title an Architect of Sleep, and she's been deposed. One of Truck's true dreams showed her when and where Bentley was going to arrive and that he would be important to her and her struggle to regain her chair.
And she needs her chair back quickly because she also dreams of a near future cataclysm that is going to cause massive destruction across several provinces, tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths from flooding, and disease and famine from loss of crops.
Between the two narratives, Boyett does an admirable job of setting up and building this world, and it's clear he's done some research of evolutionary theories/possibilities, or at least given a fair amount of thought to it. The characters and his world are fully fleshed out, interesting as hell, and believable, even if all but one of them are raccoons. There's plenty of action here too, for those who like a rousing adventure, not to mention a fair amount of humor. His [Boyett's] world is largely medieval, technology wise, but one gets the feeling that the raccoon culture is just on the verge of their equivalent of an industrial revolution.
This brings me to the major criticism all of Mr. Boyett's previous reviewers had. The story doesn't have an adequate ending, or an ending at all. For the author's explanation as to how and why this happened, see this link:
I don't know if Berkley/Ace publishing ever responded with their side of the story or not (I've not been able to find one) but as this all happened in the late 80's (1986), when publishers had all the power, it's highly unlikely the story will ever be finished. And that's a damn shame because this is a very enjoyable tale. Even though it leaves a lot of questions and situations unresolved, I highly recommend this book for it's thoughtful nature and entertainment value. It's still one of my favorites despite its drawback.
R S L