Author: John Metcalfe
Publisher: Create Space
Publication date: August 24th 2013
Buy at: BookDepository
It’s always easy to trace the breadcrumb trail backwards and note the causes retrospectively, but what if you could see the signs beforehand? What if you could filter out the noise? Could you tune into weak signals and know the future? Lee believed you could. What’s more he was proving it could be done in some of the most unpredictable environments. Praesagium follows three strangers who are preoccupied with their own futures. But when their paths cross in Mexico none of them had foreseen the outcome…
Where to start? This story of Praesagium begins when a man walks into a Mexican pub with the intent of killing… a complete stranger. Believing himself close to the end and in need of an adrenaline buff, he picks random numbers on a calculator and kills whoever brandishes the number in some way. That day, he presses a syringe with a deadly dose of drugs into a man’s neck and leaves the pub just in time to hear a woman’s scream. The book then details what happened before the small meeting of these three strangers. How the murderer came to be, and what took the man and the woman down to that pub in Mexico.
The ride there is… confusing. For the first half of the book, we don’t just follow these three characters’ lives, we read about others who have influenced, in some way or the other, the outcome. And so, for the first half, I had no idea what the book was aiming at. The synopsis mentioned three strangers and a crossing of ways, but all I saw were random chapters that did not interlock in any way until much later.
Even their content regarding the same character differed from one chapter to the other, to the point that I thought they were different characters with the same name. This is due to the fact that the author did not mention the time jumps between the different moments in a character’s life, and would sometimes not connect them. Although this displays great character growth (if the characters had not changed it’d be clear who was who from the start), a small date and character name next to each chapter title would have done wonders. I mean, I didn’t even understand that there was a jump to the past after the first chapter until I was close to the end of the book, and I can usually pick this up in a heartbeat.
The confusion only began to dissipate on the second half of the story, and even though I still did not see the point in a couple of the earlier chapters, I was beginning to understand what the author was aiming at: showing us that the ripples of a stranger’s actions on the other side of the world will invariably reach you even if you don’t know it. An admirable aim, and one of difficult execution. This was what first attracted me to the book, and why I am sure that the author could make it much better.
I don’t know if I received a fully finished book, but I believe a couple more rounds of editing would make Praesagium a brilliant book. I’d include such edits as making character/time transitions clearer, spelling/punctuation checks (there were a few were/we’re/where confusions that had me cringing), and some changes in the writing (namely dropping the instances of telling scenes that were previously shown and bits of writing that, quite frankly, felt pretentious) and characterization (why were all female latinas considered “gorgeous” for example? Some secondary characters felt like walking clichés. And is the insta-love really necessary?). The potential is there, but there is still work to be done.
I do hope that, if Metcalfe tries to get a publisher, he’ll revise the novel. I don’t see it taking the world by storm as it is right now, but the potential is there and some more work could do the trick.
The book in a quote
“Maybe he had also let the best in life pass him by. Maybe he was looking at the wrong cues.”