AJ Kirby

Damnation Books
237 Pages
Review By Rick Amortis

When professional excavation contractor Bill Minto suffers from debilitating neurological anguish, he seeks professional help. After a slew of tests little seems to provide any grasp of tangible relief. Then a project of a lifetime comes across his desk. Parkes, an aged eccentric wants Minto’s company to gut out the entire basement of an ominous estate in the desolate British country side. It seems the very foundation has been sealed off in mausoleum style fashion for reasons mysterious even unto the family. Will the project hold the key to releasing all that ails Bill and his neurological affliction or will the endeavor unleash something far more unholy than anyone may fathom?

Upon attending a recent panel discussion on independent genre writing I’d taken with me some most unusual yet arguably useful advice. One of the local authors had suggested to avoid submitting or marketing your fiction to an international market claiming it would ultimately be rejected due to inconsistencies in realistic dialogue, slang and dialect. Ultimately this author had suggested that a Canadian manuscript would not translate well unto an American audience or vice versa. I found this a tough piece to swallow yet after absorbing the initial few pages of Sharkways I began to understand what our anonymous author had meant.

There is no arguing that Kirby is a seasoned, well decorated writer with six previous novel publications and over fifty short stories in print. AJ even writes a sports column for a local paper in the United Kingdom. No one can readily deny the man knows what he’s doing. On the other hand I found a great deal of references in description, action, dialogue and exposition were depicted in such a manner that a British audience would get it and relate instantaneously. However a slightly less articulated or well-rounded North American audience may frown in confusion therefore getting distracted in the context. They’re minor gripes that may or may not even hold any water in terms of valid criticism. I would like to see an author as talented as Kirby appeal to the largest audience possible.

Some of the similes and metaphors on the onset are a bit extravagant and may deter in depth attention from the average reader. While we’re subconsciously sifting through action, description and dialogue while in the midst of validating the necessity of a metaphor the reading becomes more work than it is leisurely. It’s suddenly no longer enjoyable and sadly some readers may reject the novel before giving it the fair chance it deserves.

Don’t get me wrong Sharkways is a clever idea of infestation with subtexts and themes of deadly sins such as sloth and greed. Few readers will have any difficulty on relating to this endeavor on some level. The themes of cognitive and spiritual conflict are unique and rarely touched upon. It’s an admirable undertaking to cover such a spectrum of adversity within one Bill Minto to struggle with his own failing faculties while at a very tangible crossroads of his own grasp of morality.

I particularly enjoyed Bill’s inner monologue with respect to Nurse White while in the waiting room of the medical facility. It’s bold, some may even suggest crass. In an era that is often too politically correct for its own good I found the sexual innuendo refreshingly honest.

When Bill takes a nasty spill down a formidable hole within the cavern and his health and wellness are suddenly rejuvenated it’s a subtle reminder that easy living comes at an unholy cost. In the words of Jim Ross, business is about to pick up and we’re treated to some most bizarre unworldly events at the hands of Bill’s unexplainable recovery.

The character of Parkes is eerie, macabre and a welcome distraction I’m sure will give shivers even unto the most cynical of readers.

Collie, Bill’s odd job man and his devotion to his employer is endearing. Bill’s sentiment is reciprocated as he often refers to his assistant as The Boy Wonder and himself Batman. This reference is comical especially for a British audience and the reference translates well unto captivating a larger audience seemingly on a subconscious level.

The final act is delivered with such finesse it enables the reader to fill in the blanks of their own conclusion and after all, isn’t that what effective story telling is all about?

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