Reviewer Tom Pope: Tom is a writing teacher and fiction coach who strives to spark the imagination. As a teacher, he works with tutoring services to help students organize essays and understand literary elements like the point of view. As a fiction coach, he aids authors to develop characters, brainstorm conflict pacing and design worldbuilding.
Follow Tom's BLOG that seeks to find the intersection where fiction meets reality. Through several sections, he shows the forces that surround characters in literature and the screen as the obstacles that shape us in reality.
Author: Daniel J. Strait
Author: Daniel J. Strait
When Nakiata notices a stranger cowering in a dark corner near a pub in the last third of Daniel J. Strait’s Trouganda, she strikes the reader. The reader will probably think that finally the Ninja-like/special Ops woman used skills of observation.
Strait’s SF/fantasy of groups of people deals with a long lost prophecy that hints of star gates, religious secrets and life forms who are not what they appear. Strait’s protagonist, Nakiata, spends the novel in a quest, first of learning the special skills of a martial arts-type of training to overcome enemies and then venturing across the world to finish her last test as the supreme Master of skills.
However, the lack of mentioning Nakiata’s skills of observation highlights the dilemma of reviewing the book. Strait boldly starts readers thinking about important issues, but stops to focus on quiet moments prior to a killing scene and then the description of that killing scene.
Strait puts readers in the position of trying to discover a past’s dilemma between space exploration and discovery of an overriding power. His insight sparks curiosity. But those questions could be extended.
How does a character or society deal with exploration and power if the past has covered the information? Do the religious factions know more than they claim about the power from the prophecy of a the ninja? Does one faction harbor more danger than another for society? If life forms on the existing world are dangerous, is it possible that some of those dangers arose from previous interstellar contact? These stand out as great themes and quests for any protagonist.
Yet the focus of Trouganda centers on Nakiata’s development of the special martial arts of SOT training and then her travels to complete a final test. Strait could have included some of those larger themes into Nakiata’s quests.
Looking at Nakiata’s development, I wonder about some lost opportunities even by focusing on the martial arts. Readers are brought into her life without really understanding her psychological development.
She left home with a warm family life to be trained by masters and quickly succeeded at every level. The only real description of her learning process came from the example when she surprised her valued master in the final stages of the SOT. What did she think about being at the heart of a prophecy? The moment of discovery was a key in the Dune epic as Paul found out about his destiny. How did Nakiata first react to leaving home?
In her training, did she understand the difference between succeeding and actually using a killing weapon? She must have had some set backs? How did she look into herself to make a change to overcome those setbacks? One early learning event could have been described in detail.
During the quest of her travels, Nakiata appears as the most trustworthy of special ops as she divulges details of her quest and accepts answers at face value. Only in the last third of the novel does she operate with more secretiveness.
While she switches allies in a couple of places, she makes the decision without even thinking that new offers might have clouded intentions. Part of martial arts includes the ability to decipher truth from falsehood and to use observation skills. But Nakiata is not shown learning about which people in a crowd could pose a problem, which items in a room tell about the possible dangers in the room or which body language covers a lie during a conversation.
In a telling point about character development, Nakiata avoids any ethical explanation about why she believes killing as the only answer for deciding on how to deal with a barrier to her goal. She virtually stated that she would kill for whoever paid her. A great chance to examine the ethics of such a character jumps out with that mentality. Was she always like that? If not, why and when did she change? Does any act stop her from this killing? If Strait means the reader should wonder about the basic instinctual level of Nakiata and a connection with other life forms, then the link could have been made clearer.
Strait introduces us to some fascinating ideas. He could apply some of those implications as the characters act. In a comparison with similar character, the Nikita from the television series shows a link between a guilt from a violent act in the past and how that directly affects her actions in the present. She is sidetracked often to complete a sub-quest in the scope of a larger quest. That is a device Strait uses often. Yet Nikita’s decision to help on the sub-quest arises from an ethical turmoil that plagues her and is quickly shown through a flashback. If readers could see that within Strait’s Nakiata, the level of conflict and character development could be heightened.
Follow Here To Purchase Trouganda: Silver Tears Book 1