Description (from the back cover of the kindle edition):
Ethan Jacobs is obsessed. He searches for answers to questions that have plagued him his whole life. Questions that, for many, only lead to more and more questions. For Ethan, they lead down a dark spiral. To a place light has never reached. A personal hell he might survive, but would never escape. Be careful what you wish for…
Written by Dan Dillard
I love me a scary story. Monsters, ghosts, serial killers, whatever; I love me a scary story, so when I was contacted to review THE UNAUTHORIZED AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ETHAN JACOBS I was excited, as it sounded right up my alley. A story of a man who wanted answers to questions we all know he shouldn’t be asking, and there was some ghost / demon stuff going on, so my interest was piqued.
Ethan’s dad was an atheist, and taught him from early on in life that once you are dead, you’re dead. That’s it. No white light, no tunnel, no anything, it was just over. Ethan grew up as a man of science (well, computer science…) and was one who liked to have answers with proof, not faith, to back them up. Ethan is interested in ghosts, but as he is a man of science he is working on a theory that ghosts are just electrical matter left behind when the body dies. Matter is never truly destroyed; it just changes, so Ethan thinks that maybe when we die we just change into something that can be explained via science, and without involving religion.
He meets a woman with a ghost story of her own, and is immediately intrigued as he has yet to speak with someone that has had firsthand experience with the subject that has become his obsession. It is apparent that she truly believes her story, and Ethan is excited by this second-hand encounter with the paranormal. Unfortunately for Ethan, second-hand quickly becomes first-hand, and things go bad. Really bad.
TUAoEJ is a good story. It’s not an original concept at all – man asks questions about the supernatural that he shouldn’t be asking and then unfortunately gets the answers – but it is a good telling of a familiar trope. There is some well done imagery in the story as well; I especially liked some of the dreams: “Her mouth elongated until her chin touched her chest, the teeth inside it grown jagged and yellow before his eyes. Her eyes became black cavernous pits as she screamed.” I could see the film adaptation of that scene in my head as I read it. TUAoEJ has some other good things going for it as well: the main characters are believable and pretty-well fleshed out, the story moves along at a good pace, and the “creature” has some really good interactions with Ethan at the end. However, there were also some drawbacks to the novel.
The first issue that I had with the book was the dialogue. While it was not bad, a lot of it did not feel natural, while other bits were just somewhat unnecessary. I also noticed some issues with the “person” of the book; it seems to me that it may have been originally written in first-person, and then later changed, as there are a few times where the person changes for just a sentence and then reverts. There were also a few grammatical type issues as well that could have been avoided with the employ of a good editor, as well as some formatting issues that got on my nerves (little nitpicky things, but for example: I really think if you are going to start a new chapter, that’s a good reason to start a new page). Another issue was the end of the story; it felt like the last few chapters were not as complete as the rest of the book. Like it was rushed to conclusion, and the final conclusion left me flat. On top of all of that, my biggest issue with the novel was that this really is a story that has been told many times before, and TUAoEJ just doesn’t do a whole lot different.
I do like the spin that “ghosts” or “demons” are believed to be electrical energy, this is a theory that is gaining steam with paranormal researchers, and I liked that Ethan feels this way as well. I also liked the whole “omnipotence” of the beast; while this is nothing new, I liked the way it was presented in TUAoEJ. The problem here is that this story has been told many times in many ways, and if you are going to re-tell this familiar story it needs to do something truly different. If you read my blog often you’ll know that this is an issue I have with a lot of what I watch and read. If you’re going to make a genre piece, be it a zombie movie or a slasher flick or a demon story, it needs to do something different. It needs to do something to make it worth having another entry into the canon of work in that genre. It is not enough that you have a gross zombie or a cool mask for your slasher or a slight twist on your demon. It needs to do something truly original. I just didn’t find that originality in TUAoEJ. Don’t get me wrong: TUAoEJ is not a bad story, not at all. Maybe if I hadn’t seen DOMINION or BURNT OFFERINGS or if I hadn’t read The Yattering and Jack or whatever, I wouldn’t feel this way, but as I have seen / read this sort of stuff before, TUAoEJ just feels like a bit more of the same.
Overall, TUAoEJ is a good story well told. It has some scares, it has some sex, it has some comedy; there’s a little something for everyone and I really like that in a book. My issue is just that it’s not different enough to make someone like me, someone that loves a good scary story, love this book. TUAoEJ had the potential to be a great scary story; it just didn’t quite get there, and lives instead in the realm of a good scary story.
Overall 6.5 / 10
Dan’s site: http://www.demonauthor.com/
TUAoEJ for sale (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/The-Unauthorized-Autobiography-Ethan-Jacobs/dp/1470135191/ref=ntt_at_ep_edition_1_6