I'm completely fascinated by the way in which the publishing world is changing. I've been watching the new unfold and the old morph with baited breath. So when I was recently given a copy of the self-published book A Critical Loss of Balance by Mark E. Shaver, I was very interested in giving it a read. Especially since this is not the first self-published book I've read, but I think it's the first mainstream fiction one I've read. Everything else I've read that has been self-published has been a little more artsy/indie.
A Critical Loss of Balance is a thriller/mystery featuring a man, Cliff Elliot, who's young daughter is kidnapped. I was immediately apprehensive because as a parent I find I have a really hard time reading these type of stories now. But good news, the daughter is returned! (And that's not a spoiler alert because it happens right at the beginning of the story.) However, the circumstances under which he gets his daughter back are so unexpectedly traumatic that father Cliff finds himself a changed man; going from very mild-mannered and non-confrontational to one who is secretly obsessed with revenge. This is the impetus for the remainder of the book's story.
Overall, the action was very good and was the strongest element of the book; I thought the sequence of action was well thought out and it flowed well. Even though I felt there were a few moments of stilted dialogue and set-up early in the beginning, perhaps from rewrites, the book really hit its stride about a third of the way in and at that point I became engaged. However, I had mixed feelings about the character development. The only characters that I thought were truly developed were the protagonist, Cliff, and the villain, kidnapper Aaron. Aaron's character was quite fascinating and I think the author did a really good job of giving him a distinguishing voice and a picture of his character. On the other hand, the depiction of the police as bumbling stereotypes didn't add anything to the book. At times the police incompetence actually annoyed me because it was stretching the bounds of credibility. There was one particular scene that I literally rolled my eyes at where the chief of police is impressed because someone knew how to email a video screen shot. Even basic police detective procedures are farther along than that. I also would have liked to see a little more development in some of the minor characters; there was a lot of potential merely hinted at that took a backseat to the action. However, in this genre I think that's something to be expected.
In general I think it's a decent read, especially if you like this type of cat and mouse action. My hat's off to Mr. Shaver… this is his third book and he's currently working on a fourth. It takes bravery to write, much less all the work that goes into self-publishing as well.
My only caveat to the brave new authors of self-publishing is… don't try to edit a book completely by yourself. Or let a machine proofread for you! As someone who used to have to edit and proofread all sorts of written materials, from books to pamphlets, my rule used to be no fewer than three sets of eyes looking over a piece. Preferably more. And they can't just be anyone's eyes either, pick people who know what they're doing. There were a number of typos and errors in the book and they grew more frequent the farther into the book you read. It's incredibly hard to proofread your own work, even if you've worked as an editor, and most of these mistakes were ones a spellcheck or someone unfamiliar with print standards would miss. I think it's totally worth hiring an outside an editor to check your work. Just my two cents.
If you're interested in checking out A Critical Loss of Balance or learning more about the author you can look him up on Amazon or on his website.