Local writer Roy Claflin’s debut novel The Anomaly Problem is not a story about just one character, but rather a narrative that follows a few different characters. It is also a science-fiction story that takes place in a dystopian future. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this type of story seems to be all the rage in novels, television, and film. What separates Claflin’s novel from all the other dystopian novels out there is its accessibility. This is a wholly entertaining novel that never feels too complex or grandiose like some other dystopian stories out there. Instead of bogging down the readers with complex terminology or hitting the reader over the head with his ideas, Claflin instead has created a novel that is extremely entertaining and accessible to a large audience. The Anomaly Problem’s unique structure, use of multiple characters, and coherent and intense action sequences make this debut novel a strong one.
One of the biggest things that impressed me about Claflin’s novel was how well structured the story was and the author’s restraint in giving out details about our characters. Essentially, the novel is structured so that each new chapter continues the story of a different character. The novel starts with Desmond, a thirteen-year-old boy who is the subject of a psychological experiment, continues with Jeremy, an officer of a branch of Homeland Security named Vecidio, in the second chapter, introduces Eve, a thief who finds out about a possible score that could be incredibly lucrative, in the third, and finally introduces Trevor, a thug who at the beginning of the novel is looking for a way out of his life of crime, in the fourth. More than just an interesting way to structure the story, this form of narrative structure sets a great pace for the novel. By spending a chapter with one character and then going to another in the next chapter, the author creates a desire in the reader to keep reading. Because the reader never spends too much time with one character, a desire is created to keep going back and forth between the various characters’ journeys to sort of check up on them and see how they are doing. This especially helped in the beginning of the novel when the author took his time to not only introduce these characters, but also this world.
Claflin also does a remarkable job of deciding when to give the readers certain details about the characters and the world that the novel takes place in. Instead of revealing everything about a character at once, the author takes his time and gives a few details here and there to create a sense of curiosity in the reader to keep reading to find out more about who these people are and what their place in this world is. As this is a science-fiction novel, I was worried that the world would be really complicated and hard to understand. Thankfully it wasn’t and a lot of this is due to the fact that the author takes his time in giving the reader pieces of information about the world. He gives them enough to become invested, but never too much to overwhelm the reader.
This is not only a science-fiction novel, but also an action novel and speaking as someone who has tried to write action before, it is a really tough thing to try to do. I am happy to report that not only are the action set pieces thrilling, but easy to read and understand. I can’t stress enough how impressive it is to construct actions sequences that are not only easy to read and comprehend, but also have a sense of urgency to them. The writer also gets to have fun with his structure by ending a chapter in the midst of action and then the next chapter picks up with another character. This also goes a long way in making the reader want to continue reading.
If I had a gripe with this novel it would be that in the beginning, the audience is introduced to Desmond and it takes entirely too long come back to his character. It almost makes me question why begin the novel with him if we won’t see him again ten to twenty chapters later. The author, for the most part, does a solid job of not spending too much time away from a certain character, but that was one instance where I thought the author could have improved the structure.
Ultimately, I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in an action-packed dystopian future story and who wants a fast, entertaining read. For a debut novel, this is some really strong work and I look forward to whatever novel Mr. Claflin decides to release next. If you would like more information about the author and his work, you can visit his website. Currently, the novel is available only through amazon, as either a paperback or Kindle epub.
Jordan Kreie is a recent college graduate with a Bachelor's degree in English. When he isn't writing articles for the Arts section of Smile Politley, he is watching movies and writing film criticism. You can find him on twitter @jordankreie or read more of his work on his blog.