Today’s review is ‘Average Joe and the Extraordinaires’, the debut novel by Indie Author Belart Wright, and the first in his ‘Average Joe Series’. I came across this one after I spoke to Belart about reviewing my own debut novel, WICK. He subsequently gave me the opportunity to review this one and I was more than happy to oblige. If you want to see mroe of Belart for yourself, feel check out his WEBSITE.
Background: Detroit born Belart Wright originally released ‘AJatE’ on December 18th 2014, so it’s been out there for around a year at the time of writing this particular review. It stars Joe Black, the titular Average Joe, who finds himself thrown headlong into a mish-mash of terrorist plots, hard boiled detectives, criminals and magic. The setting places the book into the Urban Fantasy genre, but the way the plot plays out means that it leans just as much towards Science-Fantasy. You could also argue for a YA classification based on Joe’s age.
As a side note, first novels are difficult, especially for Indie Authors. Even in today’s more accepting world, Indie Novels can be tarred with the ‘no publishing deal = no good’ brush, which leads to sometimes unfair criticisms. I will attempt to be far more objective than that in this review.
The Good: Joe has a lot of different characters to interact with and play-off here, and I am glad to say that Belart avoids one of my least favourite books traits: characters that are all too similar. The cast of AJatE is suitably varied and Joe’s relationships with each are usually a joy to read. In particular, his relationship with his girlfriend Kate and her little brother Mod really shine. Their interactions are natural, fun and full of the sort of humour that will make them relatable the vast majority of potential readers.
The story itself flows well and moves at a good pace with the action coming thick and fast. The character development never feels forced, and the overall plot has enough twists and turns to keep you coming back when you should be doing something else.
While it would be fair to say that some of the characters fit standard character types, I’ve never really viewed this as a bad thing in books. Some familiarity helps give a good jumping on point to care about the heroes and villains we’re reading about. And if you’re not generally into standard tropes? Well, you’re still in luck. Creativity has been applied with full force, meaning that Belart has been able to weave something interesting and fresh feeling in spite of any comparisons you may want to draw.
The Bad: While mostly well written, the dialogue is presented in a script style as opposed to the normally expected novel style. This will potentially take a little while to get used to, which may put some readers off. From my own standpoint however, I would say that not sticking with it would be unfair as once the style beds in, it becomes easy to follow.
While we’re on the dialogue and how this affects the story, I would say that there are the odd moments where the speech can feel a little stilted. They don’t happen often, but if you’re like me then you may find yourself rereading short sections when it does.
If you prefer to have all loose ends tied up by the end of the book, the ending will disappoint. While some questions are answered, some are intentionally left open for the sequel. Again, this is not an issue for me as I like things to keep building for the next book, but it will come down to personal taste.
Final View: Viewing this in the context of being a debut novel from an Indie Author, it would be difficult to be disappointed. Action, adventure and a likeable cast of characters help build a fun story that deserves to be read. If this had not been a debut novel, I would have been tempted to drop the rating to a four on account of the occasional speech issues detailed above, but as the groundwork for future work, this is a great piece. For that reason, full marks are a fair appraisal.
Final Score: 5 / 5