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The Balance of Power, by Terry Cloutier Book Review | SFReader.com
The Balance of Power, by Terry Cloutier Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Indigo Published: 2007 Review Posted: 3/16/2009 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10
The Balance of Power, by Terry Cloutier
Book Review by SJ Higbee
Have you read this book?
This is the second book in Terry Cloutier's series about his flawed hero, Edward Fox, and his battle to regain control of his imaginary world, The Zone, where he retreats when life gets too much. However, after a failed suicide attempt, he is stranded in his created world without his godlike powers. Cloutier had set up an intriguing scenario in his first book, The Demon Within, where Edward was forced to confront the suffering experienced by his creations.
This novel concentrates mainly on Edward's adventures within The Zone while trying to escape from the clutches of the Emperor, whose implacable enmity against Edward is based on what happened in the real world. Edward's escapades span a range of experiences, both at sea and on land, and move along at a pleasing pace. Cloutier is adept at describing the various fights with clarity and plenty of narrative tension.
However, if you're sensing a 'but' amongst all this, you'd be right. Cloutier had already given us powerful reasons in The Demon Within, why Edward is such a damaged, withdrawn character. During The Balance of Power, we only witness further violence and abuse that Edward to contend with as a teenager. I feel that this was unnecessary, having been already convinced that he had suffered a horrible trauma. What is vital -- and missing -- is some sense of how Edward functions as an adult in the real world.
Particularly as Cloutier set up the rule that everyone Edward encounters ends up in The Zone, albeit in a slightly altered state. This is an opportunity that Cloutier has missed. He could have had endless fun showing us Edward's foul boss... a drunken friend... grappling with the idea that they were now confronting a God. While one or two characters do make the cross-over, they are from Edward's distant past -- and each one is an emotionally wrenching experience for our protagonist -- who needs more emotional wrenching like he needs a plastic sword. While I appreciate that there is another book to come in the series, Cloutier is at some risk of allowing his initially well-drawn character becoming a two-dimensional victim.
Neither are we given any reason as to why Edward's distraught wife is so -- well - distraught. The only insight into their marriage is Edward retreating emotionally from any real intimacy. And yet, while he is comatose due to his attempted suicide, she is doggedly loving and loyal. Why? Where is the anger at his selfishness? Cloutier has given us a super-abundance of reasons why Edward is as he is -- and yet left us floundering as to his wife's motivations. As Janice's attitude towards her husband and her alter ego within The Zone become increasingly important throughout the book, this hole in the plot yawns.
Having said that, if you are mainly after an action-filled romp, full of adventure with plenty of sword-play and a convincing protagonist, then this novel still satisfies. My quibbles come from expectations raised in the first book. Had Cloutier continued with some of the fascinating themes he started to explore in that novel, then rather than being reasonably good - this book could have been a great read.
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