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Riters is a curious book, because it is not what it seems, neither to the characters nor to the reader.

From the opening paragraph, the characters believe this to be a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a group of space-faring zealots became space-faring zealots, a true history of their religion, but it’s not. It’s actually the curious and selfish misadventures of several escapees from a prison mining operation who luck and stumble their way into accidentally helping fulfill the prophecies of a group of zealots, the titular riters.

From a look at the cover, the reader believes this to be a metaphorical look at either a sunrise or sunset, symbolizing either the start of a new day for the characters or the symbolic ending of something important. In reality — at least, in this reader’s estimation — it is, in fact, a distant, massive explosion, either one that precedes the events of the books or one that instigates much of the plot of this book.

Either way, this book is not what it seems to be. After all, despite being entitled Riters, the title characters only appear for a very small portion of the book. Nonetheless, all of the events that transpire are, in fact, important to those title characters, even if they don’t know it yet.

Confused? It’s understandable. Riters is a novel that vaults into its storytelling with confidence and gusto, never letting up for a second. The characters speak in a strange pidgin English — and the elaborate descriptions follow suit — forcing you to deduce the meaning of numerous words and phrases as the action unfolds, never once pausing or offering any sort of crutch to the reader. No glossary, no “aka,” no Rosetta Stone. You’re an alien observer on this world, and good luck to you.

Although that will no doubt turn off some readers, it does force a heightened sense of awareness and attention from the reader. Every detail is absorbed and dissected in order to place another key rung into the ladder of understanding as we climb from the depths of the earth and into the sky alongside the characters.

And it’s not just the language of the characters that is challenging, it’s their actions as well. This is a world where sex is as casual and negotiable as it is intimate, and the characters indulge in it early and often as a manner of building relationships and exerting power over each other. So what will no doubt feel gratuitous to some readers — both in frequency and in overenthusiastic description — is intended to inform the reader about the characters, how they treat others, and how they interact with the world at large.

Harris is unrelenting this way, going balls-to-the-wall in terms of ambitious plotting, indulgent tangents, and sumptuous detail, all in the service of describing the journey. This also takes some getting used to. Harris spends so much time describing the various schemes and multi-part plans of the characters but then skims quickly over the actual results. Because this is a book about how things happen, the actual things happening are so secondary as to be almost inconsequential.

This is not a perfect book. But it is a fascinating one, a story-within-a-story about the journey one takes, and how it might not be turn out to be the journey you expected. I don’t want to give away anything more than that.

Reviewed By:

Author Roy Harris
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 501 pages
Publisher Page Publishing, Inc
Publish Date 2017-Jul-20
ISBN 9781635681222
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue November 2017
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy


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