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Review of Shower of Stones by Zachary Jernigan

Review of Shower of Stones by Zachary JerniganShower of Stones by Zachary Jernigan
Series: Jeroun #2
on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 288


The follow-up to Zachary Jernigan’s critically-acclaimed literary debut No Return.At the moment of his greatest victory, before a crowd of thousands, the warrior Vedas Tezul renounced his faith, calling for revolt against the god Adrash, imploring mankind to unite in this struggle.Good intentions count for nothing. In the three months since his sacrilegious pronouncement, the world has not changed for the better. In fact, it is now on the verge of dying. The Needle hangs broken in orbit above Jeroun, each of its massive iron spheres poised to fall and blanket the planet's surface in dust. Long-held truces between Adrashi and Anadrashi break apart as panic spreads.With no allegiance to either side, the disgraced soldier Churls walks into the divided city of Danoor with a simple plan: murder the monster named Fesuy Amendja, and retrieve from captivity the only two individuals that still matter to her—Vedas Tezul, and the constructed man Berun. The simple plan goes awry, as simple plans do, and in the process Churls and her companions are introduced to one of the world’s deepest secrets: A madman, insisting he is the link to an ancient world, offering the most tempting lie of all... Hope.Concluding the visceral, inventive narrative begun in No Return, Shower of Stones pits men against gods and swords against civilization-destroying magic in the fascinatingly harsh world of Jeroun.

Normal men can indeed be turned into monsters — ordinary, unimaginative monsters. Even with their lives preserved for eons, they are of one design.

Being alone is easier than having a family. When you have a family, you are responsible to each other. It’s easier to navigate the world without that burden.

Without a path to redemption, a man would watch the world burn. With a measure of hope, the same man …
Well. He would not be the same man, would he?

Men deluded themselves when they believed in better days, some bygone era when the sun shone brighter. Better days had never existed. Joy had always been stolen, and sweeter because of that fact.

Death. Once acknowledged, it could not be unseen.

Existence was not so simple as deciding upon ways to think.
“Much of existence is exactly that simple,”

Has the world always been this way? Does each world possess a god it must overcome to achieve adulthood?

A life could be so long, yet it still failed to teach one about death. That moment, he had always known, would not be meditative. Time would not wait, but hasten the end. It would come too fast, rendering all the periods of one’s life into a fleeting memory, no more substantial than any other life.

So this was interesting for me. Different from No Return. Or perhaps I’m a different reader. I’m not sure. I didn’t read the first one again, like I had wanted to. Instead, I jumped right into the second book. I kinda regret that decision, but it is what it is.

I’m not sure how to talk about this book without giving stuff away, but I’m going to try. Hopefully I can convey my thoughts in some form of intelligent sounding sentences. As far as a summary of this book’s plot, I’d have to refer to Jernigan’s blurb, which will make more sense than what I’m about to write. The story basically follows three of our main protagonist from No Return as they get caught up in a plot to save Jeroun. Although, that is really really simplified. So, let me get on with my thoughts.

As you can see from some of the quotes I listed above, there were some deep thoughts in this book. I’d consider this more reflective than a quest driven standard fantasy/sci-fi mix. Matter of fact, I don’t feel as if the characters changed a lot between the end of No Return and the end of Shower of Stones. Sure there was a little, but not nearly as much as in No Return. Shower of Stones seemed more of an examination of the what it means to live, to die, to love, to fear. That was the focus. Not a god constructing a world-destroying needle in space. At least, that was how I felt. Good? Bad? Yes. It would depend on what kind of mood you’re in and what kind of book you’re looking for. Personally, I enjoy the deep thoughts of Jernigan. I think that’s why I like his Bottom of the Sea shorty story compilation more than I did No Return. Those short stories have stuck with me ever since I read them.

Now, normally I’d throw myself a little tantrum and mope around about not having that intense character obsession that I love. I didn’t, though. Instead, I used my pitiful imagination to connect with Jernigan’s writing. When something happened, it wasn’t stated as a fact, it was explored in detail. For instance, there is a scene of a character waking after surviving a horrible experience. The sensations and his physical state were described over about two pages, and then his recollection of events for perhaps another two. The characters in this book are always thinking, and we are along for that ride. It makes for a long read, and if you really, really boil down the plot, not much happens.

The length of the book is made up of musings and imagery. As some of you know, the imagery part should have prompted a level of boredom from me. I would be lying if I said on mornings when I was tired and my brain was not yet awake that I still dived into this with reckless abandon. Those mornings I found myself dreading the book because it would remind me how much I truly struggle to create images in my mind based on descriptive descriptions (if that makes any sense). It made me take a nap, because my brain hurt. I can describe a picture, but it’s ten times harder for me to come up with my own picture based on the words of another. It’s one of the challenges I face as a reader. It’s why lengthy, detailed descriptions usually bother me.

The reason I overcame this usual annoyance was simply Jernigan’s writing. I find his sentences fascinating, masterful at times. I read him for his descriptions. I read him for how all his characters view situations, life itself. All his works I’ve read have had a level of depth that I’ve enjoyed. The descriptions are not just descriptions, but perceptions and sensations from the characters point of view, conveyed sometimes poetically. It’s hard to find that in books. That type of book isn’t something I would read over and over. I mean, if I did, I’d be devouring a meager book a month and I’m sure at one point my brain would stutter to a halt. There’s a place for fast paced books, books that just move. Then there’s a place for more reflective books. Jernigan, so far, has written the latter, in my humble opinion.

I will say that I didn’t struggle as much with this one as I did with No Return. I think it was because I had a good foothold in the world. It was familiar. There were hardly any new places—places that stretched my imagination. So for those looking for the fun, crazy places delivered in the first book, be prepared to be disappointed. Not to say this one wasn’t inventive, it just didn’t have that out-of-the-box shock factor of the first one. I’d lean it more towards a philosophical tone than the journey tone of No Return. But boy howdy, when there was action it was incredible and fun and descriptive and gory and wonderful!

So overall, if you liked No Return, you should read this. If you didn’t, well, read it anyway. It’s different in a lot of ways. Matter of fact, this would be a book that both my mother and sister would enjoy. The sex is (sadly) less, the cursing as well. Shame for me; good for mom.

P.S. A few side things I must mention because I do whenever I notice it. First, there were editing errors that stuck out. Second, the price of this book is painful, especially for an ebook. I know the author doesn’t have control, but ouch. As of now, Amazon (of course) is the cheapest option.

About Zachary Jernigan

Zachary Jernigan works as a feature journalist in Northern Arizona.

His debut novel, No Return, is a science-fantasy story filled with sex, violence, religion, and muscular people in weird skintight costumes living on a world where god exists and is very upset. The AV Club listed it as one of the best books of 2013.

Shower of Stones, the sequel to No Return, came out in 2015. Publishers Weekly praised the novel, stating in review, “Jernigan employs hard-hitting and unflinching prose that’s as concise as it is brutal.”

The author’s first short story collection (title TBA) is forthcoming in the spring of 2016. It has already received accolades from prominent figures in the genre.

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