Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: Sliding Beneath the Surface by Doug Dillon

Sliding Beneath the Surface
by Doug Dillon

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 294
Publisher: Old St. Augustine Publications
Publication date: September 2, 2011
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal

First in The St. Augustine Trilogy. From Goodreads:
"A new resident of America’s oldest and most haunted city, St. Augustine, Florida, fifteen-year-old Jeff Golden suddenly finds himself up to his eyeballs in frightening paranormal experiences. At the end of his rope in trying to figure out what is happening to him, Jeff decides to rely on his friend Carla Rodriguez, and Lobo, an old Native American shaman, for help.

Despite this guidance, things get even worse. Jeff’s spine tingling encounters increase in number and intensity at an alarming rate, scaring him even more. Eventually, he makes the startling discovery that unresolved circumstances involving a bloody event directly out of Florida’s distant past threatens his sanity and possibly his life.

Finally, overwhelmed by forces he cannot understand or control, Jeff’s world shifts from frightening to downright terrifying. In desperation, and on Lobo’s advice, he leaps headlong into the unknown in order to save himself. What Jeff discovers though is that he has entered a level of reality he is completely unprepared to handle while unwittingly dragging Carla with him.

Like all the books in THE ST. AUGUSTINE TRILOGY, the premise for Sliding Beneath the Surface is simply this: You create your own reality.

{ I was kindly provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. }

Sliding Beneath the Surface is a creative mix of Florida history and the supernatural. Jeff learns that there is more to the world than the one reality he has always perceived; he finds himself being dragged into other realities by a spirit from the past that relives the day of his death over and over again. Lobo teaches him about these different realities and how Jeff can slide into them, and Carla is there to help him out.

From the start, Carla is clearly Jeff's romantic interest. The development of their relationship is nice and slow, building to some very sweet moments at the end of the book. Carla demonstrates early on that she has some paranormal abilities of her own, but they are not explored in too much detail, which makes me wonder if (and hope that) she and her powers will take more of a central role in one of the other books in the trilogy.

Readers should note this is is not your typical YA paranormal book. I feel like Sliding Beneath the Surface is more supernatural than paranormal; it explores the idea of reality, how to move into other realities, how people in other realities can affect you, and how to control your own thoughts, actions, and destiny. It's very intellectual. In fact, you could wonder if the whole thing is in Jeff's head, except for some physical evidence he brings back from his journeys into other realities.

A little editing could have really improved Sliding Beneath the Surface. It felt a little long to me; while all the scenes and dialogue seemed essential to explaining the story, I feel like they could have been edited down a little to keep the pace of the plot moving at a good clip. The book could have used more editing for punctuation too; if you are like me and your eyes pick up every single unnecessary or misplaced comma, you'll find yourself stumbling over quite a few sentences. I also found Jeff's voice as a main character a little too interactive; he speaks directly to the reader quite a bit, giving a lot of "I tell you what"s and "know what I mean?"s in his narration. I guess I prefer to be a more voyeuristic reader - I like to be let into the character's thoughts and understand their motivations, but I don't like to feel like they're looking right at me and explaining themselves directly to me. But that's just my personal tastes.

Overall, Sliding Beneath the Surface is an intriguing and thought-provoking story of the supernatural. There are some really exciting moments that lovers of ghost stories will tear through (SPOILER - highlight to read: the scene where Walton comes through the glass was the creepiest in the book for me!), as well as action scenes that history buffs would appreciate (SPOILER - highlight to read: Dillon does a nice job of bringing the battle with the Seminoles to life in great detail). It's a solid introduction to the series and I'm interested to see where the story goes from here.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Learn more about Doug Dillon on his website,
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