Monday, November 2, 2015

The Pelagius Game by R.J. Jerome

Doubleplus ungood

Headmaster Michael Olshefski sneaks out of the Pelagius Order in the dead of night to meet with a mysterious summons. He meets with Timothy Anderson, a former member, who reveals insights into his own past with the Order. This past includes some disturbing details about the last Pelagius game that would overthrow everything Olshefski knows.

I was so excited about this concept. It's a secret order, there's a chess match between God and Satan, and there's reincarnated people with supernatural gifts. I was into it. Unfortunately, as I started reading, I realized that the author had a heavy-handed way of saying almost everything, and his characters were in need of some major development. Still, I gave it a chance.

A little further into the novel, after Timothy Anderson has accepted an invite to a mysterious seminary where the priest just showed up to his house, said "there's no time, be ready in three days," and left, I realized I had serious problems with the main character. These problems became more apparent when he admits to his new friends that he's not much for sports, then is suddenly amazing at football. And again, when his friend has been working on something for three years, and Timothy says, "give me a try," and is perfect at it. Call me crazy, but I have trouble believing a perfect main character.

I think my biggest character problem, however, began in the second part of the novel. This part promised to be the most exciting part. It was supposed to answer all the questions that the reader has been led to ask, and it was supposed to be the major action of the novel. But with fifteen main characters to keep up with, I found at least five of them dropping off my mental map.The ones I was able to keep track of were all very one-sided and had no major development. The worst of it, though, was the only female character in the novel, Lilith. [Spoilers ahead] The only reason she was in the novel was to be a temptress, much as Eve was in the garden of Eden. I understand the author's concept, but I really feel that he could've been more subtle with this. And as with the other characters, Lilith had no development as a character. She is also referred to frequently as a slave, and the character James becomes really possessive and controlling over her. Honestly, all three in her thrall become almost annoyingly possessive. They're supposed to be fighting these huge demons, but instead they fight among themselves about this girl. It's a classically chauvinistic and cliche approach to dealing with women in novels. 

When the second part finally ended, in what I felt was an entirely predictable way, the author chose to start a "part three" with only 18 pages left of the novel. It is in this part that the author hammers the reader over the head with everything in the second part he wanted to be sure they understood. This is also when he brings the reader back to the present, because honestly the entire novel was a vision, and the entire second part a vision within a vision. The novel wraps up with Timothy Anderson asking permission to search the grounds and buying Michael Olshefski's cab ride home. 

All in all, I was entirely unimpressed with this novel and was left wishing the author had hired an editor prior to self-publishing.

Buy The Pelagius Game: Valstain by R.J. Jerome at

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