Review: Never Knew Another
When you read a lot of novels, there comes a time when you need something… different. No farmboys who are destined to become the savior of the land. No elves or dwarves. No schools of wizards. No epic stories that plod along for 82 bajillion pages. Typically when the menu calls for something like this, Subterranean Press is the best place to go. But lately, it seems like Night Shade Books has the kind of story that is needed.
NEVER KNEW ANOTHER (Amazon), by J.M. McDermott, is a fascinating story that centers on the themes of identity and prejudice. The city Dogsland, where the novel takes place, is a sprawling hovel, really, where the citizens hold extreme hatred and fear towards any person that has even a shred of demon-blood in them. The story follows two Walkers—odd, religious, wolf-like bounty hunter types—as they try to track down demons that have been running around the city.
The thing is, this novel is mainly a character study. One of the Walkers has an ability to look into people’s memories, and then leap into the memories of others from that memory. So what we end up with is a novel told in 1st Person, but relating the memories of the people she (the Walker) is tracking to us in a 3rd Person Omniscient narrative style. At first it was a little jarring, but as the novel progressed the style became completely awesome in its execution.
The novel jumps from the memories of several people. Rachel Nolander, a half-demon; Rachel’s brother Djoss; Corporal Joni, also a demon; and a thief named Salvatore. Each of the view points is unique, and through them you get a great feeling for how squalid Dogsland is, and just how prejudiced the normal human citizens are. On the flip side, you also get a good feeling for why people fear the demons so much. It all makes for a fantastic dynamic.
When reading, if it seems like you are just getting character back-story, you are. That’s the way this novel is. NEVER KNEW ANOTHER is light on a major story, and about average on setting, but is solid gold on character and social development. What’s the reason for pointing this out? Simply put, a lot of people may get turned off from this story if they don’t understand the way the book is told right from the get-go. From McDermott’s blog: “Literary Walkabout is a good thing.”
Apart from the characters and unique story-telling technique, the other thing McDermott’s novel has going for it are a few very cool ideas that will stick with you until the sequel is released. The way a demon’s physiology differs from humans (and how they hide it), and the harm they can cause just by touching another person. The way the Walkers can see into memories (which was already mentioned earlier). The methods for cleaning and purifying places where the demons have been. There are some seriously awesome nuggets here.
The main problem most people will have is thinking the story is underdeveloped, or having trouble with the narrative style. My main issue was that the book just kind of stops. It makes the novel lack some of the emotion impact a character-study novel should.
But whatever. This novel was solid. The characters acted in very different yet completely believable ways. The description was terrific. Need something new and fresh? Something very uniquely written? Give J.M. McDermott’s NEVER KNEW ANOTHER a try. Now I just have to wait for the sequel…
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Some, and it can get strong
- Violence: A little, but nothing shock value. Remember, the main thing here is the characters.
- Sex: Nothing super graphic. A few scenes of sensuality.
Note: As an aside, this is easily one of my favorite covers this year. I just think it is absolutely beautiful. It was done by Julien Alday. Completely awesome.