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Lights Out Paperback – December 10, 2010
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About the Author
David Crawford is an avid outdoorsman who likes to hunt, fish, hike, off-road, and shoot. He is a third degree black belt with the American Society of Karate where he teaches children and adults. Residing in San Antonio with his wife, he is the father of two, and is working on his next novel.
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The premise is a very good one--in a present-day setting, an electromagnetic pulse wipes out almost all technology. Society, dependent on electricity and digital gadgets of all kinds, must adapt or die. But David Crawford, the author, is a survivalist, not a writer, and it shows in every page of this too-long, self-published (because, I suspect, no reputable publisher would ever put their name on this) novel. I'll touch on but a few of the numerous "spinach, Oreos and mucous" aspects of this book:
Inconsistencies/lack of basic structure.
Examples: The time of year and geographical location of the story--basic building-blocks info--isn't revealed until about 20 pages in, for no apparent reason; Several chapters in, the electromagnetic pulse is suddenly and thereafter referred to as The Blast, without explanation (Plot spoiler: The cause of The Blast is never even explained); The lead character, Mark, steps from his daily morning shower to...criticize others for wasting the limited water supply; The wives bake cookies in their electric ovens, though "The Blast" has supposedly wiped out all electricity. But never mind those pesky details--it's fiction!
Memories? Preferences? Character descriptions beyond what you'd find on a police blotter? Bah, who needs those extraneous words!
Stereotypical Stepford wives.
In the male-centric fantasy world of Lights Out, the women are whining airheads fleshed out with such vivid descriptives as: 1. Height, 2. Hair color, and 3. "She could have been a model." Even if they are educated professionals (only in gender-stereotyped roles such as teacher or nurse, I might add) they've given it all up to home-school their children and cater to their husbands. Yep, even after delivering and raising children (including a pair of stereotypical blond twin girls), the women of Lights Out are all built like Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and are smart enough to be educated but clueless enough to tolerate their chauvinistic husbands. As the impending apocalypse looms, "the women" (as they are often collectively referenced) just want to bake cookies and plan a dance. Ah yes, the end of the world is sweeter when you're munching on a chocolate chip cookie you've baked in your magical, electricity-free oven!
Stereotypical "Hoo-rah" men.
The men are all highly intelligent and spend lots of time rolling their eyes behind the women's backs and bonding over how silly "the women" are. Apparently, "they just don't get it" (while the men, of course, do).
Crawford undoubtedly lives vicariously through Mark, who is Clark Kent-like in his role as an office worker-turned-end-of-world savior. As the riveting plot unfolds, we discover that Mark--modest guy that he is--has knowledge of a great many things that come in handy when faced with extinction-level events, such as the finer points of building and firing guns, repairing tractors and cars, agricultural science and planting crops, breeding, raising and skinning animals and curing meat, and the internal mechanical workings of wind generators, not to mention the intricacies of human interaction, psychology and leadership. And yes, he also wards off armed gangs of attackers with only empty hands and martial arts skills that would make Stephen Seagal jealous. Split the atom using only rocks, sticks, and a rubber band? That's nothing for Mark!
All of the dialogue is painful. Not only is it flat and unnatural, Crawford can't just let it speak for itself, i.e., "Stop," she said, haltingly. "No, it's not!" he said, defensively. "Hurry up," she said, hurriedly. As I turned the pages of Lights Out, I stabbed myself in the eye with the corner of my bookmark to ease the pain.
If I didn't laugh, I'd cry at how the author has chosen one of the most cliché-laden paragraphs of the book as a publicity quote on his Lights Out web site and the back cover of the book. To paraphrase, two men are walking when they realize they've been shot at. "Subconsciously, the men held their breath." (Um, subconsciously, we breathe all the time.) "Even the wind stopped blowing." (I'm not kidding.) Then (...we know you're now perched on the edge of your seat!) "The world held its breath." Good Lord. The only cliché Crawford missed was a tumbleweed rolling by lazily, accompanied by the strains of a warbling harmonica.
--(Of course, a sentence like, "The world held its breath" begs the question: Does that mean the planet actually breathes, and it held its breath, or that everyone in the world--even folks 150 miles away--held their breath at the same time, blinking in confusion at one another, and later wondered why they did so? Such are the things you ponder when reading Lights Out.)--
Lights Out delivers grammatical tragedy on every page. What's saddest is that the very last phrase of the book--the pivotal, climactic, tie-up-all-the-loose-ends moment we've been wading through over 600 pages of crap for--has a punctuation error. I kid you not.
It's truly hard to fathom how so many people gave this book positive reviews. It's like pointing out the spinach, Oreos and mucous to 100 other people and hearing 98 of them respond, "What spinach and Oreos and mucous?" Did Crawford promise a free download with every review 4 stars and over?
Great premise, good title, terrible writing. What a shame. A talented writer could have done wonders with this.
The basic premise of the book is of a US plunged into chaos following an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack. If you aren't tracking at this point, an EMP attack is the destruction of the electronic infrastructure of the country using nuclear weapons detonated in space. These weapons create an EMP that fry anything connected to the power grid and anything with complex electronics. Cars Dead. Computers Dead. Most of the things we take for granted are just switched off. This causes a cascading failure that effects everyone in the country. Needless to say this is the end of the world as they knew it. Are you ready to fend for yourself ... and your family?
Bobby Ann Mason once said that the best stories occurred when you take ordinary people and place them in extraordinary situations. LIGHTS OUT deals with a group of ordinary people who band together and form a community in the aftermath of this national disaster. The ethics of self reliance and hard work are that are missing from some arenas of modern-life are alive in this volume. The relationships are natural, they feel organic and not forced. The level of drama never takes me out of the story and aside from some lucky pre-planning and coincidental hobbies there is nothing that I think is contrived about the setting or events. I would like to have seen some greater focus on the realities beyond the community but the outside world is addressed all be it briefly. I hope to see other stories from this "world."
Having read David's work online for years, I can tell you that this guy is a writer. He produces and he learns. This is an amazing first book and I look forward to future efforts from him. Maybe a book about two guys named DJ and Gabe will be availible on Amazon this time next year. We can only hope.