Posted by: Matt Y | 05/29/2015

Review: On A Spiritual Plain

Next up let’s look at Lou Antonelli’s On a Spiritual Plain.  The title makes me wonder if he meant to write plane, as in plane of existence, instead of plain, as in not complicated or vanilla.  I mean the latter one works as a description for the tale but the former seems like it would fit more.  This is a story about a chaplain that helps a spirit on an alien planet move on.

Early Immersion – Starts in media res with the main character on his way with the spirit.  Is strange enough to make the reader curious about what happens next.

Immersion is maintained – It’s consistent throughout.  There is a portion that might break it for some readers; The Golden Mean the protagonist ascribes to the Temple of Release’s dimensions isn’t The Golden Mean, and for that matter it’s tossed out there with no followed up so if there was a larger implication regarding that it isn’t follow up on.

There is a plot – Couldn’t find one.  A soldier dies on an alien planet and due to the strong magnetic field of that planet his spirit is trapped and walking around bothering people.  The aliens of that planet are used to walking their ancestor spirits to a weak point in the magnetic where the spirits can move on.  The base chaplain takes on the duty to ride a segway on a pilgrimage with the aliens to put the spirit to rest.  The story is rife with potential conflicts, from cultural differences with the aliens to the choices of the spirit, however nothing presents itself.  The aliens are cool with whatever and the spirit of the soldier is passive.  There’s more plot in an episode of the Ghost Whisperer.

There are characters – Mainly the protagonist of the chaplain and the alien cleric Dergec.  Dergec exists only to answer questions of the alien procedures and as a guide and has no characteristics outside of that role.  The chaplain seems like a good guy who is bound to do his duty well but we don’t learn much about him other than that.  He’s a cipher.

There is foreshadowing and it doesn’t suck – There’s no twists or turns and the climax is the spirit moving on which was the inevitable conclusion from the beginning.

There are no gaping plot holes – Would have to have one in order to have holes

Pacing is appropriate – The pace is a nice sedative if you’re having trouble sleeping.

The piece has an emotional payoff – We barely have any details of the spirit to care if he moved on or not.  There’s nothing about the chaplain that encourages an emotional investment from the reader, aside from the idea of a person trying to do their job well.  There’s no emotional payoff because there was no emotional investment into any of it.  If anything at the end another soldier passes and the chaplain is kind of rude to the alien cleric who had been nothing but helpful and included humans into their pilgrimage so the end emotional payoff for me was thinking the chaplain was kind of a dick.

This was about as interesting as someone telling me about how they went to the store to buy some bread, and that they bought the bread and nothing of note happened on the trip.  Only with segway scooters, aliens and ghosts.  That a short story managed to make ghosts and aliens banal is an accomplishment I guess.

Paulk Metric of Judgement: Unworthy.

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