Bill Blais was kind enough to send me a copy of his self-published novel Witness, the first book in the “All Prophets Are Liars” series, to read and review. Intrigued by the series title and the premise of a prophesied hero being killed before fulfilling his destiny, I couldn’t resist. Although there are certainly some interesting ideas building the foundation of this book, they are not interwoven into a coherent, tightly plotted storyline.
In Boston, Sarah and her drunk boyfriend Steve are having a screaming match/breakup that is annoying (or entertaining) her neighbors. Steve wants to come in to Sarah’s apartment but she says it’s over and won’t let him in so they keep shouting at each other through Sarah’s open window. He cheated on her then proposed to her to keep her and recently he followed her to her co-worker Rick’s apartment to find that now Sarah is cheating on him. Eventually, Steve drives away in his truck after throwing a brick through an angry neighbor’s window.
Meanwhile, a young man and woman are in a cab finding their way to Razmus, the one prophesied to save them all with the use of a special amulet. They are to meet up with him then finally go home to their own world. Instead, the two arrive just in time to see Razmus hit by Steve’s truck when he was trying to hit Rick. Razmus is killed and Rick is pushed through the portal to the other world with the amulet and instructions to find Maia. Rick awakens in the other world along with his worst enemy, Steve. The two are found by a hospitable family who take them in and care for them while they adapt to this new world.
Getting into this story was very difficult to do and I never really got to the point where I wanted to know what happened next. The beginning especially was very confusing as it introduced too many characters in too few pages. There were often just 2 to 4 pages on one person and then it would move on to a new character for another 4 pages or so then bounce back to another new character for just a few pages. Some of these people were not in the story enough to ever seem to serve an important purpose. Later in the book, a few pages were dedicated to describing all the members of the family that Rick and Steve stayed with and although some of these people were in the book more, they always seemed less important than the characters who were briefly mentioned. Even with the description of these characters, no character other than Rick, Steve, and Sarah really stood out as an individual and it was difficult to keep track of who was who. I never connected with any of the people in this book or cared about what happened to them, even Rick, who was the most sympathetic character with his general goodness and insecurities about Steve being the one of the two men prospering in this new world.
The idea of a failed prophecy is one that is interesting in a genre in which prophecies usually come true and I would have liked to have seen this explored more. It is mentioned that there is a prophecy, it is important and involves saving the fantasy world, and the hero who was to fulfill this prophecy is killed. However, we are not given a reason to care that Razmus has died and there are not further details on what his purpose was. Since this is the start of a series, there may be more depth to this storyline in future installments but in this one the prophecy was vague.
Much of the story did not flow naturally – it was choppy, uneven, and often seemed as though the author was trying too hard. There were many comparisons to fantasy books and movies and many descriptions of all the things Rick missed from his own world that seemed to be repeatedly driving home the point that they were not in our world anymore. The side plot with Rick’s walkman, perceived as containing trapped souls by those in the fantasy world, was given far too much attention with a whole chapter about someone trying to decipher the meaning of “AM,” “FM,” and “Vol.” Residents of the fantasy world often spoke in different languages, but it was overdone, especially since they’d just rattle off a bunch of words with very little clue given as to what was actually being said.
Witness contains an interesting premise but this failed prophecy never really feels that important to the story other than the beginning even though it is driving many events in the story. Furthermore, the various storylines fail to come together into one interwoven story as it jumps from scene to scene and character to character.