I’ve known Nate Philbrick for a while now, as @flashflood14 of Twitter. His website is full of tips for writers, as well as a fair amount of writerly humor. A few weeks ago, he released his first novel and I picked up the ebook version.
I finished “Little One” last night and it left me… well, many things, actually. It left me impressed (for several reasons), touched (Litty is such a sweet little kid), and scrambling for a genre to stick it in. And that’s just the beginning.
First off, anyone who’s had siblings will understand the main character (Daniel) remarkably well. Throughout the majority of the book, he’s trying to find and rescue his tiny (2 year old) sister. Having lost her in what is essentially a war-zone, he’s understandably single-minded; he’s going to get her back and the rest of the world can burn until he does. The level of panic written into Daniel’s character practically leaps off the page to grab the reader by the lapels.
The villain of the story is a work of art, as villains go. He’s not one of the ‘love to hate’ villains that are so popular. This bad guy is of the sort that makes you wish someone would put a bullet in him, because you’re not sure you can bear to read this next bit…
Interestingly, a few of the lesser protagonists (if we can call them such) aren’t much different. Without delving into the world of spoilers, I’ll just say that you’ll end up hating at least one of them almost as much as the ‘real’ bad guy.
Of course, in fine counterpoint to them, the author presents us with the main character’s best friend. ‘Ram’ is the Sam Gamgee of this story; stolid, unwaveringly brave (when it’s necessary), and loyal to the point of suicidal. Without him, the book would almost be too dark to read.
As a writer, there were a few points which my attention fastened on and wondered “why”, but not many. The first (and possibly least important) was why one of the many ‘good guys’ didn’t just shoot the bad guy in the 1st quarter of the book. It would have solved a lot of problems and there were several opportunities for them to do so. The main reason seems to have been ‘because we’re not killers’. However, as the bad guy had already tortured and murdered a whole village and went on to torture, almost-murder, and murder at least three more people in the course of the book… any question of removing him would have been less of morality and more of “do we put this rabid dog down or let it go on biting people?”. Of course, since removing him in the 1st act would mean there wouldn’t be a 2nd and 3rd act… I was quite happy to drown my question in the remaining 300 pages of the book.
Another point my writerly mind fastened on was the back-story. Or more specifically, the back-story that I wanted to know and which wasn’t there. The book certainly doesn’t NEED an entire explanatory sequel, but… the fantasy-history nut in me really wishes there were. Which, now that I think about it, is about as good an endorsement as it’s possible to get from me.
One of the more curious things about ‘Little One’ is its genre. Or lack of one. It’s filed under ‘paranormal and urban fantasy’ in Amazon’s listings, but having read it, I wouldn’t be so sure. It’s a blend of urban fantasy, science-fiction, literary fiction, and good old-fashioned adventure. Perhaps the author has figured out a genre to put it in, but the task is beyond me.
There were a few grammatical errors (and a name confusion or two) but they were few and far in between. They might have been mildly annoying for the perfectionist reader, but it’s become irrelevant, since the author has already taken down the e-book for corrections. Quick work, that.
As I told the author this morning, ‘Little One’ made an impression. Enough of one that should I ever find the name “Nate Philbrick” on another novel, I’ll be picking it up on general principles.