First, a quick personal update: I know I haven’t updated this blog for more than a month. I have put my head down to writing and managed to get a draft of Die By The Sword completed! I am now working on some rewrites before moving on the main editing phase. Every time I promise a time-line I never seem to be able to make it, so…soonish.
The End of Utopia is an anthology by debut author Ross Ellison. Now, if you have read any of my posts before, you know I like to get personal bias out of the way right at the start, so in that spirit I’d like to let it be known that Ross is a friend and writing rival of mine, and while I strive to be as unbiased as possible in my review it is possible that it colored my opinion.
TEOU sets the stage for Ross’s larger planned series, The Search of Eden. It encompasses 10 short stories that introduce the readers to major characters, locations, and concepts. We learn this is a world where magic and technology exist side-by-side, if not at odds with one another, with soldiers wielding high-tech guns and an assortment of magical talents and fantastical abilities. These technologies and magics are only briefly explored, though from the looks of it Ross has invented a very robust and open ended system that will be defined for the readers as the series progresses. We are also introduced to major factions of humans and demons who have been at war with each other for a long, long time, and the cult of women who worship the demons and do their bidding.
The stories themselves range the gambit from high supernatural (the creation of a vampire in Born from Darkness) to tours of his locales (as is the Evesdroppers journey in The Contract). They are very quick stories, maybe a five or ten minute read each, with the whole anthology quickly covered in an afternoon or a lengthy bus ride. Unfortunately, this length means that none of the characters get too much time to be developed (I would have liked to learn more about the Evesdropper), on the plus side, this keeps many of the antagonists introduced here mysterious for the main series, so it is a trade-off.
As I move into my opinions, one thing I feel imperative to bring up right away is that this book is quite rough around the edges. It is not unusual for a self-published book to lack the polish provided by professional editors, and TEOU has its share of grammatical and sentence structure issues. In particular, there is an overuse of the comma in places it does not belong. This can be particularly jarring during dialogue as some of the characters sound as if they are taking as many pauses as William Shatner. So if that kind of thing turns you off immediately this book might not be for you. But if you’re a little patient in this regard read on.
My second thought is that this anthology feels it would be better fit after reading a main series title. Ross’s intention was to give us a glimmer of a larger world to wet our appetites for the real thing, but there’s so much going on in this world, so much magic and weird supernatural crap and these stories are too short to expand or explain any of it. You just kind of have to go with the flow. I feel after reading a main series title, and thus having a greater feel for how magic works, the technology, and the supernatural forces at play you would then be served by reading this short anthology and learning the backstories of a few of its characters.
On the positive note, Ross certainly has no lack of imagination. If his biggest problem is that he is trying to do too much with too few pages, his strength is that he has no shortage of ideas when it comes to designing his world and its peoples. Hope you like sociopathic, demon-worshipping cultists, cause the twisted parts of Ross’s mind has many ideas of different flavors of crazy, from your vanilla heartless tactician to your mint chocolate ‘torturer who can control the water cells in your body.” Well, at least the heroes have a guy who is good at chess…I’m sure they’ll be fine.
It’s hard to say much more without giving everything away with how short these stories are. On the bright side of that, they are short enough that you could give one or two a try and see if it is for you. The entire first story, “A Tale of Two Inventors” is available in the book’s preview on Amazon, and the whole book is part of Kindle Unlimited program, so if you have that you can read it for free. You should take a look, nothing to lose but a couple of minutes of time.
The End of Utopia Character Anthology is available of Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions: https://www.amazon.com/Utopia-Character-Anthology-Search-Eden-ebook/dp/B01MT1GOTL