The Imaginarium Machine, by John Adrian Tomlin

The Imaginarium Machine, by John Adrian Tomlin book cover

Genre: Fantasy Anthology
Publisher:  Xlibris
Published: 2017
Reviewer Rating: Not Rated
Reviewer: David L. Felts

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If you’ve been reading my reviews on SFReader, you might have noticed that The Imaginarium Machine, by John Adrian Tomlin, has a different rating from my others: Not Rated.

That’s became I didn’t finish the book. In fact, I petered out at the end of chapter 7, page 34. I’m afraid I just couldn’t read any more. Not because it’s a bad story. I think there’s a good one–along with interesting characters–in there somewhere, buried behind amateurish and ultimately unreadable prose.

I know that sounds harsh.

Some advice I’ve heard told to writers is to treat words like dollars: you have to pay for each one and you have a budget for each story. For every weak or unnecessary word you trim, you get to use a good word somewhere else.

He nodded his head yes. Way overpriced at five dollars. First off, you can’t nod your head no, that’s shaking your head: He nodded his head. Down to four dollars, but still too costly. You can’t nod your leg, or arm, right? So: He nodded. Two bucks.

You just saved yourself three dollars to spend elsewhere.

His heart pounded in his chest. His heart pounded. He had a frown on his face. Can you have one anywhere else? He frowned.

I don’t need to read about someone going to the kitchen, getting chips, and setting it on the table while another character turns off a gaming machine.

Not necessarily applicable, but to further explain what I mean, there’s the all-too-common bed-to-bathroom scene many new writers feel the need to use, the one where the protagonist wakes up, yawns, scratches his head, stumbles into the bathroom, turns on the light, examines his reflection, notes the bags under his eyes and various other features, turns on the water, gets the toothpaste, puts it on the toothbrush, brushes his teeth… you get the idea.

The microwave cooking scene. The opening the car door scene. The changing clothes scene. The ordering a drink at the bar scene. If it doesn’t directly add to the story, cut it. The problem, of course, is that new writers aren’t as adept at determining what adds and what doesn’t. Sometimes even experienced authors aren’t either. This is where (good, experienced, professional) editors are useful.

This is the prolog:

“Is it one o’clock yet?” Jack exclaims with excitement.

“Almost. Let’s turn on the TV and ready the chips.” Ben goes into the kitchen and gets the bowl of chips and sets it on the table in front of the TV while Jake turns off the Playstation 5 and puts the TV on the G4 channel.

“So what do you think Sony has up their sleeve this year?” Jack turns to Ben, waiting for an answer.

“I don’t know, Bro. We already have realistic graphics in gaming, virtual reality, 3-D TVs that don’t need those hideous glasses, and motion gaming with Playstation Move 3.0. They can’t possibly top themselves after that. I’m guessing they’re just going to advertise new games and sequels.” Being sure of himself, they both sit down, waiting for his predictions to come true.

Add in problems with tense–Tomlin is going for present but often slips into past, and I was simply not able to continue.

I have a great admiration for Tomlin. He’s done something few ever do: completed a book. He should write another. And another. And another. And another. He should seek critical feedback from people qualified to give it, such as published authors and real it’s-my-job editors. He should join a writer’s group, preferable not one where a bunch of unpublished authors sit around and tell each other how to get published. If he does all these things, one day he will turn out a gripping and well-written story.

And when that story shows up, I’ll gladly read it.

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