Odd Men Out Kindle Edition
|Length: 226 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Top customer reviews
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It was so different yet it reminded me of Firefly and Farscape, two of my favorite science fiction TV series. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
As others note, the novel is a hodgepodge mix of genre elements from apocalyptic to alt history, to steampunk, to B movie monster movies, and on and on. What makes this work is that Betts keeps the same tone throughout and above all the same style. Despite many elements, the book at heart is a simple adventure story, full of action and crisp writing. The story, and its execution are just simply fun.
What disappointed me about the novel was firstly that it is too short. Some portions seem rushed, with action taking place off-screen that I would've been curious to 'see'. Betts could have also used some more room to get in better characterization (without losing the story's pace and pulse). At the end of this I have a vague sense of who the characters were - as in their 'role' to the story. Their identities, however... What really makes them tick and unique... not so much. In addition their interactions - particularly in the romance aspect - is predictable, cliched, and thus kind of lifeless. Obviously though, these sorts of issues aren't what's at the forefront of a book like this, so while I could imagine it being better, these disappointments didn't seriously detract from the entertainment at its core.
Despite how much I enjoyed it, this isn't the type of book I'd normally first go to and pick up cold without knowing the author or trusted reviews. I had entered a previous giveaway from the publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press, a title I actually was more interested in from the blurb. Failed to win that, but at the time I had looked into the publisher and their entire independent catalog I was intrigued. When I saw this from the same publisher I signed up more to see one of their titles moreso than this particular novel. I'll gladly seek out future works by Betts though, hoping they'll keep the fun and magic with improvements to boot.
I could never afford to get lots of their releases, (being independent small press, they aren't likely to be easy to find second hand) but I would also be willing now to try ones at full price that did look good. Normally I wouldn't comment on price and construction like this, but this book is also one of the sturdiest and nicest paperbacks (trade) that I've had, and for once I'd consider the full price of a trade paperback to be worth it. I carry books around all the time, on the bus reading to work, etc, and usually they become bent, scarred, creased, despite my best attempts at keeping them pristine. This kept its corners rigid, had no easy creasing, etc. I was so impressed I thought I should say something.
It should be easy to tell if you like this kind of book: the genres, the easy reading, etc. If you do, definitely try getting ahold of a copy. Then watch some MST3K, you'll be in the mood assuredly.
The author's style jumps around between POV characters, which seems to add up toward the end, but which always portrays only the necessary points of view on crucial events. While this style helped show us what was happening across different places on the western side of the country, there was a haze in the beginning (possibly because he kept switching POV's), where I wasn't sure if I really cared for the characters and really had no idea about the plot other than that there was a secret organization out to rule the fractured country.
Where I really started enjoying Odd Men Out is when their paths became more closely tied. Hotspots of action ramped up and in between we had scenes where the character's vulnerabilities started to shine through. I realized then what this book was about by seeing the individuals involved becoming more than just pieces on a chess board. I highlighted one of these scenes, which takes place on an airship where our main characters Cyrus and Lucinda find refuge after a significantly cool action event:
Lowell, the captain of the airship describes how much worse seeing chewers infest Gettysburg than when he'd been fighting the Confederate Army: "...It was unbelievable the things that happened that day. They didn't rest. They didn't take time to reload. They just kept coming."
The thrum of the engines filled the room as everyone let it ink in.
"I was four years old during the battle of Gettysburg," Bethy said. "So don't bother to ask me if I was there."
"Oh and here we thought you were tough," Emmett said. "Let a little thing like childhood stop you from fighting? Shameful."
The men all chuckled at the jibe.
Cyrus laughed as well, but realized that with Bethy's joke, it left him as the only one who hadn't accounted for his military exploits. It would mean he would either have to lie and say he'd seen combat, or explain why he'd dodged service like a coward. He decided to try to avoid the question as best he could.
"So, if you all fought on opposite sides," he said, "how'd you ever get together on this ship?" It was a legitimate question, in addition to being a distraction.
"Hell, once they signed the treaty things happened pretty fast," Lowell said. "We all turned our gun sights from each other to the chewers."
"Most everyone," Emmett said.
"I'm sure you know how hard grudges die, Cyrus," Lowell said.
Cyrus was fully aware of some people who would love to do him and Lucinda in, and vice-versa.
"Yeah, well, the treaty enforcement folks quickly discovered that too," Lowell said. "They found out the hard way that they couldn't just send out a piece of paper saying we were done with the fighting and expect people to go along with it."
"They started asking for volunteers to join up with the United Nations as peace keepers and I think each one of us raised our hand," Zeke said. "Personally, I just wanted to see some fighting. I didn't really care who it was."
"That's beautiful, Zeke," Bethy said. "Your patriotism brings a tear to my eye."
Zeke rolled over with a chuckle.
These characters' journeys from outcast to hero set in a creatively-built playground made Odd Men Out an enjoyable read and Matt Betts an author to follow. The genre mashup between steampunk, alternate history, horror and monster-catching thriller excited me in their introduction, but often let me down as they faded offscreen for another genre element to show up. The focus of the story is clearly on characters becoming heroes, but the above genre elements felt too quickly used and discarded. The world he has created is already rooted in these elements, but in future works I'd like to see at least one of them take center stage and escalate the conflict to a hard fought conclusion. I want a Matt Betts book that combines his talent of showing living characters with a product that stands out as a favorite Steampunk book, or a favorite Zombie book, because how he's used the genre elements is more fleshed out and explosive in climax.
The end is literally explosive, and uniquely satisfying on a character-growth level, but I can't help but admit having wanted more umph in the story's most tense moments. I recommend you pick Odd Men Out up and see what it does for you. I want more books from Matt Betts.
I've taken advantage of the Goodreads "spoiler" tag to give more explanation for my comment about wanting more "umph" but without spoiling anything for those who haven't read Odd Men Out. If you think I'm completely off base for this criticism, go to my Goodreads review and click on the spoiler link to see my reasoning.
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