Reviewed: 2009-03-13 - (Review Updated: 2009-03-16)
In some ways I am not really sure what to make of this story. The basic premise of the story is one of which I am quite fond of reading. But by chapter 16 it started to stray from the original story and become something else again. It is almost as if chapters 17 and 18 have been pulled out of another story altogether.
Jon Ritter, magically finds himself transported to...well we are never really told when or where. We are initially prompted to believe it could be prehistoric times, could even be a parallel universe setting, but as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that if he has been transported backwards into the Earth's history - and by the extensive description of 'carbon steel' in the swords and daggers - the time is somewhere after the 11th century BC for that is when, in the normal timeline, carbon steel was 'discovered'.
The 'hero' of the story is, however, rather unique - his transportation doesn't really appear to affect him mentally and - like most heroes who are flung back in time - he manages to learn the language rather quickly, integrate with the local population and, in this story, rises in stature and class. In some ways this did make the story far fetched - I would have preferred more of a 'what am I doing here' type storyline, but instead we have a 'OK, now I'm here, everything will be OK'. John appears to accept where he is without worrying - I would go so far as to say this wouldn't be the normal persons reaction. But then, I'm not John Ritter!
What doesn't appear to happen here though, is his 20th century knowledge making him 'lord and master' over everyone he meets. He apparently uses some 20th century skills to survive, but - at least in the story - doesn't raise the suspicions of the 11th or 10th BC century people. He does, however, appear to have skills and/or knowledge of which there has been no reasonable explanation for him having (the refinement of the arrow is a good example). Other stories of this genre usually make the time traveller become an Over Lord of the population; John doesn't take this path - or at least, not yet. He does use his knowledge to gather some wealth around him but even this is, at times, not explained very well as to how it has come about.
Chapter 16 marks a 'twist' to the story - and it is obvious from the final 3 chapters, that the writing of the story has either been trimmed down or rushed, the final chapter appears to jump around and leave a lot of gaps - more so than earlier chapters.
This, then, brings me to a technical review of the story. Whilst the basic storyline is rather good, technically it is rather poor. Whilst the odd spelling error or gramatical or punctuation error can usually be accepted in stories of this nature, there comes a point where these errors actually impinge on the reading of the story and - at times - make you stop and ask yourself 'Just what is he trying to say' because either the spelling of the word has another, completely different meaning, or because the spelling error looks so stupid (that's the only word I can think of to realistically describe these 'stoppages' in the story).
Yes, I know that on March 11 Crunchy posted that he had now 'corrected most of the errors' in the story, but the fact is, these errors NEED to be fixed before they get published. I don't know if Crunchy uses an editor - but he DOES need to get the services of one - and quickly. At this stage I haven't read any of his other stories - to be truthful, if they are of the same quality as Desert Dreams, I probably won't bother - because when I read a story I like to read it and not have to continually stop and dissect it because of errors. As I said at the start - the storyline IS good but is let down by the lack of editing. Even a run through a spell checker would have picked up some of the errors originally posted, if not the grammatical or punctuation errors.
Crunchy says he is writing a sequel, to be called, Indian Steel (the title will become obvious when you read Desert Dreams) - please Crunchy - send it through an editor before posting it. The difference it will make is amazing.