Preordained, by David L. Wallace

Short Take: Readers are stupid, and editors are for sissies.

Man, y’all, I wanted to love this SO MUCH. There are valid comparisons to some of my favorite things, like Devil’s Advocate, and Seven, and after reading it, I can even see some echoes of Angel Heart (am I the only one who still remembers and loves that one? Anyway…).

But in the end, the author took the seeds of a fantastic story and suffocated them in layer after layer of fertilizer (if you know what I mean). The basic premise of the story is that detective Art Somers has a serial killer running amok in his small South Carolina county. The killer only targets 12 year old boys, which it just so happens is the exact age of Art’s son. There’s a lot more to this tale than just a straight murder mystery, however, there are also loads of supernatural elements and some sci-fi technology, and there may be more to Art than just luscious long but manly hair and a bitchin’ Camaro.

There are even some really fascinating historical elements, from ancient Israel to the Geechee/Gullah people. I could’ve loved this book, and raved to the heavens about it.

But the writing, y’all. The writing was so bad. Instead of a great book, I just spent hours reading a VERY rough first draft. A few examples…..

In one scene, we’re given a very graphic, disgusting description of the reason that Art won’t eat red sauce, and hasn’t for years. But just a couple of chapters before, his fiancee Angela was sexily feeding him shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce.

This sentence: “Her eyes seemed as if she didn’t recognize him and he sure as hell didn’t know the ones glaring back at him. They were all blue and her pupils had dilated to the point where they covered the whites in her eyes.” Are the eyes blue, or pupil-black? If you can’t see the whites, how do you know where they are looking? Just, what?

Or this gem: “Angela’s flashlight shined on tall blades of sea grass intermixed with cattails, which were wetland plants that looked like a smoked sausage impaled on a long green stem.” I think that most people know what cattails are, but really, slowing down the action of a tense scene to compare common plants to barbecue meat is just…. Ugh.

There is so much of that. Awkward phrasing, blatant contradictions, weird descriptions shoved onto lumpy misshapen sentences.

Art, our “hero”, is a moron. He repeatedly fatally shoots people who could give him information to solve the case. I wanted to pull a Lethal Weapon Danny Glover and implore him, “couldn’t you just shoot them in the leg?”  Upon being the only first responder on scene when not one, but two people who have critical information on the killer are bleeding out, Art takes the time to do a little light reading, followed by a power nap and a few phone calls. I’m sure the ambulance will get there eventually, right? Plus, any half-witted cop would’ve handcuffed the bad guy before taking some me-time, so he couldn’t get away while said cop is chilling…. Oh. Never mind.

When his grandmother is attacked by a supernatural entity in a way that could have killed her, he decides to take the heroic action of…. Calling her twice a day to check her emotional state. Which is ridiculous enough on its face, but then he doesn’t even do that. Poor Grandma.

He finds his fiancee (who is also his partner at work, aka A COP) cutting herself while injecting illegal drugs and his reaction is a shrug of the shoulders and business as usual.

And can we talk about Angela?  Look, I get that it’s hard for straight dudes to write women. They are mysterious and kind of scary, and like, all of them act different, and some of them smell good and some are kind of tall and whatnot. But the casual, rampant misogyny in Preordained is some next level male gaze grossness. For example, a slave girl is raped by a demon, but it’s cool, she likes it eventually.

Going back to Angela, she and Art’s ex-wife have some kind of history that could be interesting, but nope.  They’ve always fought over men, of course, because that’s all women exist for in this book. Like, Angela is supposed to be Art’s equal, she’s also a cop, a PROFESSIONAL FREAKIN COLLEAGUE (when she’s not cutting herself and shooting up, I guess?), ostensibly a talented one, but she calls him Daddy and begs to move in with him. Oh, and Art takes pride in “standing by her through her addiction” and “keeping his engagement vow to be there for her always”. Note – the drug reveal & engagement happened early in the book, and those things lasted for the entirety of the book – about two whole days days. In a row. Ladies, are ya’ll swooning yet?

Of course, there’s a sex scene between the two of them, and I’m not going to even touch on that one other than to say I may have torn a cringe muscle.

Scenes shift, people randomly pop in and out of them, things happen for no reason and with no apparent results (in one dramatic scene, Art turns in his badge, and thus is no longer a police officer, in the next, he’s working away in his office at the police station). The supernatural elements just happen, there’s no build-up or foreshadowing or even emphasis on how strange something is, it’s just a thing that happens before the next thing that happens. There’s a lot of dialogue that I could quote, but I’m just going to say “painful”, and call it quits with that one. And the ultimate weapon against dark forces is Dumbo’s magic feather.

I think you all get the idea. Mr. Wallace definitely has some great ideas, and seems willing to do research for his books, but what he really needs is a team of tough beta readers and editors.

The Nerd’s Rating: ONE (MOSTLY SAD) HAPPY NEURON. (and some Metallica. Because you can’t throw a Satan party without Metallica.)



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