In Review: Them

This is an excellent premise for a book, but it is delivered like a hammer to the reader's head.

Them by MG Hardie

Published by MoorRey Publishing, May 23, 2017. Oversized paperback of 304 pages at $16.99.  

The cover: Beneath the stark red digital letters of the title, alien eyes peer over the Earth. The author’s name appears at the bottom in white capital letters. A simple cover that succinctly sums up the premise of the novel: Them are on our world. Overall grade: A-

The premise: From the back cover, “When stock trader Devon Heathrow finds a mysterious device, a new world is open to him. He is plunged into a world of violence and uncertainty. Otherworlders murder his wife, daughter and him. Devon was dead. Revived…hurt and alone, Devon does the only thing he can do…run. Armed with nothing he is forced to hide in the shadows, doing the unimaginable to survive. He is haunted by nightmares and pursued around the world by dark agents. Now inextricably entwined in an unknown plan, Devon must return home to get the answers he so desperately needs. He returns to where it all began seeking redemption and revenge, but how?” This premise is intriguing, but I’m put on guard by some punctuation errors and awkward phrasing in this summary. Overall grade: B-

The characters: Devon Heathrow is the protagonist of this novel and he learns of Them accidentally. After using the device that is in the premise, which is very cool, Devon is abducted by He and transformed. He is medically altered so that he can see Them and battle Them, if he chooses; he has superhuman speed, strength, sight, agility, healing, but he is not a superhero, nor a god — he cannot fly and he is not invulnerable. After he is transformed, he released back to the world where some of Them are always following him, always trying to kill him. When he fights back, he can defend himself, but the carnage that comes from such a conflict often results in several, if not hundreds of, innocents dying. Because of the guilt he feels from these innocents, he wanders the Earth, hiding from Them. As he moves from one location to another, he ponders the existence and role of man on Earth. This is the majority of the novel, and it is incredibly tedious to read. This is due to the character disappearing and the author’s voice taking over. I’ve never read anything else by Hardie, but it seemed as though Heathrow’s thoughts and conclusions were the author’s: they are so many as to come off as rambling and never reaching any conclusion. Imagine every thread of what it means to be just and correct in the modern world, on what should be important, and what is not, as well as every type of conspiracy one can think of — it’s here. These are thrown at the reader by He, one of Them, who helps to transform Heathrow. In fifteen pages he bombards the protagonist and the reader with every possible type of self-enlightenment and self-righteousness, mixed with every conspiracy and catch phrase possible. All I could think of was Morpheus from The Matrix, but he was much more direct with Neo. His dialogue was a massive information dump upon the reader that drowns him or her in information. The members of Them that are spoken of or encountered included Sway, Ask, Extraction, and Influence. Their names define who they are — this is not subtle writing. Them create events that move humans in directions that should cause them to evolve, change their ways. Of late, humanity has gone in the wrong direction, which will lead to their destruction. The origin of Them is delivered by He early in the book and must be read to be believed — I couldn’t. The characters of this novel, protagonist and antagonist, disappear to the author wagging his finger at society, and I don’t like to be lectured. Overall grade: D

The settings: Heathrow goes everywhere in this novel, by every means of transport, encountering every type of person. Not much time is spent in one place because, like Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner, he is constantly pursued by Them. Just as he’s taken up a job, he has to move on. Initially this seemed like a neat way to have the character experience different cultures, but all they did was prove to the protagonist that mankind is doomed to fall before Them. In fact, with the locations changing so quickly, halfway through the novel, this pattern of movement was obvious, so I felt unattached to anywhere he went or anyone he met. One setting blurred into the next. Overall grade: D 

The action: The first time Heathrow battles Them it’s engaging reading. Devon is woefully over his head as he fights Them and the battle is vivid. Its aftermath is also described extremely well, making the fight seem even more ferocious. However, after this conflict, the destruction happens so randomly, with tornadoes (created by Them) even proving to be foes, that the chaos becomes uneventful. A cruise ship is destroyed at one point, but after all that has come before, the reader knows that Heathrow will survive and go elsewhere, making the action dull and the deaths meaningless. The action should mean something, the deaths should mean something, but they don’t. The action is second fiddle to the insights that the protagonist has learned, but it’s usually that he should remain alone. If the action doesn’t contribute to his growth, there shouldn’t be any acton. Overall grade: D+

The conclusion: Heathrow comes to a conclusion in the final chapter, but it could have come much, much sooner. It was an endurance to get to the end and what he realizes is nothing that wasn’t beaten into the ground by the author by the first third of the book. I was angry at the amount of time I devoted to reading this book to come to this conclusion. Overall grade: F

The final line: This is an excellent premise for a book, but it is delivered like a hammer to the reader’s head. Subtlety was needed in creating the many, many messages of this book, as was a proofreading — there are many places where punctuation is missing, back-to-back sentences have the same sentence starters, and awkward phrasing occurs. Heathrow’s arc is also missing, beaten down continually by the author usurping his voice. Overall grade: D

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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