Behold the gentle egghead as he laments how boring his life is. But you, the reader, know by this put on, that things are about to change.
The Short: A slow boil magical mystery with dusty manuscripts and 1970s bass breakdowns. Great character development of an awkward but hip man walking into weirdness.
The Long: The cover of Shagduk mentions Fernwood 2 Night. I haven’t seen that, but if it evokes the same awkwardness of Between Two Ferns that is a good
descriptor of the feeling underlying Shagduk.
I cant quite characterize it as cosmic horror or action adventure, and urban fantasy doesn’t quite do it justice. Like many Indie works, it doesn’t slip easily into one category.
Difficulties I had-
The journal format was a stumbling block for me. It’s not my preferred style, but the issue was easy enough to put to the side. If you are down with journal formats, no sweat.
Shagduk has a slow pace. This is not always a negative. Pacing is about style. In this character exploration, a slow pacing is fine. I’m used to high paced action adventures, so a change of gears was needed. I do think the first 30-50 pages drags, but after that the story finds itself.
There is an incomplete feeling to ending. Throughout the story I expected a cosmic horror tale to drag the protagonist to an untimely end. But Jackson has other plans. I thought the ending would better fit a short story, but here we must take into account that this is De Re Dordica BOOK ONE - the end sets up for book two. I am interested to see what’s brewing, as Jackson’s writing has a lot going for it -
As I’ve said, Shagduk is about character development, and JB does excellent character development. An academically capable but not terribly wise MC, just cool enough to be the bassist in a local band, but not cool enough to get laid. I feel the writer personally knows the behind the scenes of both libraries and the local band scene. Steven feels real and sympathetic. I alternately rooted for and cringed at the choices he made. When you speak to a book to tell the MC what he should do next, you are invested.
JB also summons much 1970s nostalgia and lore. The book follows the sensibilities of the times - a welcome change from recent media which grinds everything into grey goo under a global post-modern lens. The 1970s were the 1970s, not the 2020s thank goodness. The flavor JB brings to the text inspires me to be a little more thoughtful in adding the same spice to my own Sword & Seventies series. If I can meld character and setting as he does, I’ll be happy.
As the story goes, the awkward intellectualism and weirdness of the world seems to grow about the MC, Steven, creating unexpected turns.
I DO want some loose ends tied up, and the end seems primarily like a hook for book two. As a mystery and a character study of a soul exploring increasingly weird horizons, I look forward to a follow up.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ four stars for those looking for a horror or adventure, but I will give it
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ five stars for those that like a slow boil magical mystery.
Universal link: bookgoodies.com/a/1956453067