Today I'll review a self-published book - the first that I've ever purchased and read. In an earlier blog entry, I described meeting John Hartness at the NCWN Fall Conference. He sold me an autographed copy of his book, The Chosen for $10. Now, here is what I thought of it.
In the spirit of Christopher Moore, John Hartness's The Chosen takes the story of "Adam and Eve" and tells us what really happened. It turns out that Moses didn't get it quite right. This book is irreverent and hilarious. While doctrinally problematic, Hartness shows our current life in a new light. He reveals a few "true" concepts that most Christians continually struggle to understand. While many may find the book offensive, it's worth reading to the end to see how Hartness's stirring of the pot is resolved.
Adam and Eve are immortal. Despondent over Abel's death, Eve has separated herself from Adam for many millennium. Throughout Earth's entire existence, these two characters have led separate lives - marrying others and even producing children. They always adapt to the then-current culture.
The book begins with Adam playing blackjack in Las Vegas. He's visited by Lucky, aka Lucypher. Lucky lends Adam his bike (hence the key chain on the front cover), and a fun road trip ensues. On the way, Adam runs into several characters, including Eve, Cain, and the archangel Michael who had kicked them out of the garden.
Each character has his or her own motives and desires. Hartness runs the gamut in the interactions between each character, leaving no stone unturned. The result is a hilarious read.
However - and this is my biggest complaint - each character is practically the same. As in the one Christopher Moore book I've read (Lamb), it becomes necessary to apply the same ridiculous character traits to everyone in order to make the humor work. Thus, this flaw becomes one of the book's biggest curses, but at the same time it's one of its biggest blessings.
Everyone, except for the archangel Michael, is a redneck burdened by almost all vices imaginable: gambling, drinking, foul language, getting into bar fights, having a selfish mean spirit. (For some reason, there's no smoking. I didn't mind that, as smoking kills.) Michael is different, because ... well ... he's an archangel. He comes across as a prude who no one likes. While character distinction is lacking, this setup makes for hilarious situations.
Hartness does demonstrate in Chapter 27 that he really can write different characters when he takes a break from the humor to tell a touching story.
My advice: If you're in the mood for an irreverent, yet thought provoking story, and if you don't mind the swearing and the other vices, then buy this book. It is definitely worth the $10 I paid. The e-book version is considerably cheaper.
One final word on the editing: As a self-published book, you may find a few errors, such as misspelled words, wrong words, missing quotes, etc. It reads like a good fourth draft. This book could use the love of an editor who has incentive to profit from its sales. A little more editing could help this book go from being great to being downright awesome.
However, with publishing houses closing left and right, there are fewer authors making it through the traditional routes. I see a lot of potential in John Hartness, and I look forward to reading his Hard Day's Knight. One day I hope that a traditional publisher will recognize his talent and help him produce the kind of books he is capable of writing.