Next of Kin (a novella by Dan Wells) is the best story I've ever been disappointed with. By that I mean that I was expecting a five-star story and only got a four-star story. The sheer awesomeness of the original John Cleaver trilogy may actually make this story look bad, even though it's great in its own right. Just not as great as I wanted it to be.
For this novella to work, the setting had to be pretty bare bones. It really doesn't matter much, especially through the lens of POV. As far as depth of description for the setting, Mr. Well's mastery plays on.
The conflict in the story went steadily deeper across its short length. It came from several different directions, which I liked. The use of foreshadowing was spot on. The largest conflict in the story resolved itself rather quickly, but the built up to the event coupled with the impact of the last few pages on the series as a whole allowed that to work. A few more paragraphs would have aided the pacing perhaps, if one wants to nit-pick.
Character was my only real problem with Next of Kin. Compared to other narrator's, Elijah isn't that bad. It's just...he isn't John Wayne Cleaver. Elijah is sympathetic, competent, and compelling, yet he's missing something crucial. He isn't proactive enough. At least, for this series. John thinks about what he's going to do intently for a few pages, then he does them. Elijah thinks a little bit longer and I think it hurts his proactivity "slider" a lot. Yeah, he got things done, but he was (for the most part) a bit too reactive. I couldn't get into the voice quite as much as I did with John. There are probably several reasons for that, none of which this literary criticism is going to get into detail on.
Would I recommend this story to others? Heck yeah. It wasn't as kick-butt as I wanted it to be, but it's still better than a lot of other stories out there. So go buy Next of Kin and support the superb Dan Wells. Right now. Please.
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