Review: The Forlorn

The Forlorn - Dave Freer

I find it difficult to quantify why I’m giving this book four stars because the book had a lot of flaws, but I really enjoyed the story.  It takes place on a planet where humans and members of a xenophobic alien race are in conflict.  Technology exists that could help the humans survive but, due to some sort of a mysterious betrayal, that technology has been scattered around the planet and/or disabled.  Only certain kinds of people are able to use the technology, and most of the humans on the planet seem to be oblivious to the fact that this technology exists.

I think one of the things I liked the most and the least about this book was that it kept me guessing.  In general, my interest is held better by books that don’t spoon feed information to me but rather give me a chance to figure things out for myself first.  The author starts the story off in the middle of the action, and he doesn’t really bother to explain what the heck is going on.  Within a couple of pages you grasp the obvious – scared boy touches amulet, seemingly-magical things happen, danger follows.  But what is the amulet?  How did he get it?  How does it work?  While you’re speculating on these things, you’re drawn further into the world and you start gathering more questions – what are the Morkth?  Why are they there?  What <i>exactly</i> happened to bring the humans to the planet they’re on now?  Why do only some humans seem to know or care about what happened?  Why is one character apparently part ape?  

I had a constant stream of questions as I was reading the book, and I enjoyed trying to figure out the answers, but the problem was that not all of the questions were answered by the end of the book and sometimes the lack of answers made it difficult to correctly interpret other events in the book.  So the aspect of the book that I enjoyed throughout most of the story started to get annoying by the end.  There were some things that were never fully explained, and some things that were explained unclearly.  And then, when I got to the end of the book, there was a brief but very informative appendix.  I wish I’d thought to check for such a thing sooner!  The appendix explained quite a few things that had still been unclear to me by the end of the book, and it gave information that I’m quite sure was never conveyed as part of the story.  I don’t mind if an author keeps me guessing – in fact, I like it.  But sooner or later I want definite answers and they should be contained in the story and provided in time for me to fully appreciate their ramifications.

Some of the characters were interesting.  I liked the main character, Keilin, even though his story was a rather familiar one.  He starts off as a scared, homeless boy just trying to survive and ends up playing a large role in the events of the story.  I found his character growth believable, if a little predictable, but I wouldn’t have minded more stories showing that growth.  One of the other main characters, Shael, started off as a pretty horrible, unlikeable character, but she grew more likeable once she got out from under the influence of her father.  There were other characters who were more interesting and unique than the main characters but didn’t get enough “page time”, particularly S’kith.  I would have loved to see more of his discoveries about life in general, and I would have enjoyed spending more time in his head once his horizons started to expand as a result of his adventures.  I think there were a lot of missed opportunities with him.  The villainous characters, on the other hand, all seemed pretty ridiculous to me.  They were all purely evil and self-centered, and they were usually pretty stupid too.

The ending was also very abrupt.  The main issues were resolved and then it was over.  There were so many things that could have been expanded on to flesh the ending out better, and so many questions about what the characters did next that I wanted to see answered.  But, even though I found many flaws in the book, in the end I was just wrapped up in the story and I enjoyed it despite its flaws.