Alene and Jeff - A Review
(In written reviews I don't want to assign number scores or "Thumbs up" metrics. But that is part of the mechanism for submitting a review. I try to explain how I approached the story and the stories effect on me.)
"Arlene and Jeff" is one of those long-running stories that I would see pop up with a new chapter once a week. I put off starting in on something that was so far along. In my experience, by the time an erotic story is this long, the beginning has been forgotten, the characters have emerged fully from the writer's creepy Id, and, in an effort to keep the reader's interest, the kink has reached Marquis De Sade levels.
Curiously, I read the story description:
"While Jeff is away finalizing the sale of his invention, a local bully coerces Jeff's wife and daughter into having sex. Jeff has to put his family back together and clean up the situation with the bully, while at the same time, moving to a retreat that they are converting to an enormous home, high in the Rocky Mountains. He has to juggle keeping his family going, while protecting the secret of the healer, and where it came from. Smoking fetish."
WTF? I don't have a smoking fetish and the description didn't ring my chimes, so I put off reading it again. However, a couple of months later I had finished writing a couple of stories in Thinking Horndog's "Swarm" universe and I was looking for something to read.
I opened the story index and I was met with this warning:
"The first three chapters contain coercion sex. Please don't put the book down too soon, though. These chapters are necessary to establish the reasons for much of the followup as Jeff puts his family back together to begin their lives in the retreat high in the Colorado Rockies."
It's rarely good for a writer to say, "Hang on, guys. The opening sucks, but it gets better. I promise!"
So I put off reading it for several more weeks. Finally, I knew that my employment was going require me to be sitting around waiting for several hours, so I downloaded the book. When the spinning Beach ball stopped, I had downloaded over twelve and a half megabytes of text. Holy Smokes!
I started reading it. And I got hooked. I only liked it, but RoustWriter has discovered one of the secrets of profitable writing: he keeps you hooked, wanting, needing to know what happens next.
"Alene and Jeff" is a big, sprawling, sloppy mess of a book. RoustWriter begins with a pretty straightforward domestic narrative, mixes in an unlimited-wealth wish fulfillment story, then he sudden drops in a scene from a military sci-fi story.
So the narrative is in the blender. This is not such a bad thing, though the transitions can be abrupt at first and it's hard, sometimes, to understand WHY IN THE HELL?
But the story moves on and some very nice characters are introduced. There are weddings. Then more weddings. Then another few weddings. The story becomes a narrative of a group of polygamous men living in a mountain retreat. All of them have several wives. The Hero (the eponymous "Jeff") has 14 wives at this point and each one of these wives has a wedding.
I felt like I was trapped in my wife's TiVo queue.
Anyway, making through all this tulle and lace, the story returns to a military sci-fi story very reminiscent of "Stargate SG-1." There is the hero, his team, the curmudgeonly General waiting back at base, ready to chew out the hero for taking chances. It's a pretty good read.
So how do I rate the book?
Well, here is my confession. I am very conflicted in my judgement. When I finished the book (up to chapter 315!) , I went back to the beginning and re-read it. It made a lot more sense the second time around. This time around I started to notice all the small niggling things that bugged me the first time.
I started keeping notes. There are many small typos in the text. (Note that when you write, there are ALWAYS typos. I don't blame the writer or his editor for these.) I opened up a text editor window and kept a running notation of these typos. Every several chapters, I emailed the list to RoustWriter. He replied that several people were flagging typos and that they were being collected for an eventual text revision. Hooray for authors that reply and are willing to receive critical readings. I did that three more times. Then I quit. My OCD gave up in defeat.
There is a second class of errors that stopped me in my tracks while reading. Those are errors that occur when a writer is writing about something of which he has no expertise. While I would never doubt RoustWriter's descriptions of police procedures (which lends a great deal of drama to the story and of which I know only, "You have the right to remain silent. . .") he, at one point describes a "bottle of single malt, ten-year-old bourbon."
Scotch has varieties that are single-malt. Bourbon's nearest analog would be single-barrel bourbon.
There are only a couple of these instances in over 300 chapters, so really, I'm choking on gnats here.
The third issue that I have in the story is the dialog of females when they are in the throes of sexual ecstasies. One woman, Diana, a wife and mother (in fact THE wife and mother of the story) screams in the heat of the moment, "Fuck the shit out of me!"
I was involuntarily thrown in my mind back to that moment in the movie "City Slickers"
"Are you telling me you wouldn't like to hump her brains out?"
"Lovely image. Ranks right up there with that favorite of yours "bang the shit out of her."
Somehow I have trouble hearing, in my head, a woman using a phrase that conjoins sex and feces. Maybe it's just me.
A final critique: An editor of mine once remarked of Charles Dickens, "He was paid by the word, so we got bloated novels such as, 'Great Expectations.' Sometimes, reading Dickens, you can recognize when his rent was due."
RoustWriter is writing for free, but seems to want to ensure that new readers, jumping into the middle of his work, are not lost. So he writes a lot of recap information into each chapter. As each character in the story is introduced into the community, they have the history of the community related to them. If you read his work as I did, in one long binge spanning three days, it can get tedious. When I have to wait for a week for the next installment, I dance in impatience as the new character id briefed. I want those words to advance the story, not recap the story.
So my final judgement is this: This is a melange of about five different, interconnected novels. Some of those novels would benefit from being separated from the other four. However, the collection of novels might not work as well as this big, sprawling mess.
In spite of my difficulties with the text, I liked it. I wound up re-reading it twice. Believe me, that is vey unusual. I enjoyed several of the characters very much, and I keep reading the series to find out what they are up to this week.
The only question that remains after all this reading and analysis is this: Why is the story called, "Arlene and Jeff"? They are daughter and father. Where is Diane, the wife and mother? Perhaps this will become clear somewhere in the next 100 chapters!
Like any great story, there are a few downsides, not many, but a few. For me, the single biggest downside is the authors desire to write a two million word story instead of the very best story he could possible write. There are almost zero typos or misuse of words, so whoever is doing the proofreading, is excellent. What the story needs is an editor to cut out the chapters that are simply repetitive; I cannot believe that anyone who stuck through three hundred chapters is reading this for the sex. The biggest lack is that it needs someone to write a well drawn cast of characters. There are so many women and it is easy to lose track not so much of their names as their backgrounds and their backgrounds are really important to the story. It is also obvious to the careful reader that author is becoming a better writer with each chapter, which is saying a lot because he starts off as a really good writer.
Now to the stuff I like: great action, totally improbable heroes, excellent knowledge of weaponry, weirdo space aliens, ESP, telekinesis, incest, fascinating technology, ridiculously wealthy people the rules do not apply to (I so want to be one them), heroic women and heroic men, more incest, some really creative sex scenes, a sense of right and wrong and morality that has little to do with legality.
And last and by no means whatsoever least, dependable; there is a new chapter every Friday. Not my favorite way to read,however when compared to some of my favorite stories on SOL I am not waiting years or months for the next chapter. As I have written in other reviews, the problem with instant gratification is that it takes so damned long.
Reviewed: 2007-02-18 - (Review Updated: 2010-03-13)
This is stupid! On Saturday mornings, is the first thing I do a crap? No. Is it a pee? No. A nice cup of freshly brewed coffee, black with sweetener? No. Walk the dog? No.Is it go to SOL, and look up Roust's Saga about Arlene and Jeff, and Fred and Brenda, and a cute E.T. Medical AI? Yep! Beware, it sorta grows on you, and the problem is, will I live long enough to find out if Arlene has Jeff's baby, and if Brenda finally makes it back and does she cure her new body of her hosts drug ruined body? Amongst many more sub story lines.
I do not normally Review a half finished story, but seeing how Roust is well into Book III, I'll take a chance.
Now, you newbies on SOL, start at the beginning and read all about it! And Enjoy. And set your priorites right on Saturdays, as I did!