May CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1: Beckon, by Tom Pawlik

Ancient legends, missing persons, little towns with big secrets, and nasty things lurking in subterranean caverns.

I am so there.

My review of Tom Pawlik’s Beckon will diverge a bit from my usual pattern. This is partly because my daughter graduated from high school yesterday, and I’ve been immersed in the accompanying festivities, so I’m still reading the book. Another reason is that the story lends itself to a three-part review, being told from the perspective of three different protagonists, whose stories converge at the end.

Predictability is also boring, so I like to mix things up now and again.

To that end, we’ll start things off with a look at the first part of Beckon, which concerns one Jack Kendrick. Jack’s father, David, an anthropologist, vanished some years earlier while investigating a legendary pre-Columbian civilization in the mountains of Wyoming, and his colleagues were quick to dismiss his theories as so much pixie dust. Jack, meanwhile, has become an anthropologist himself in the hopes of vindicating his father’s reputation, but has given up hope of finding David, alive or dead—until he discovers a piece of evidence that rekindles his hope. He travels to Wyoming, enlisting a scientist friend and a guide from the local Caieche Indian tribe to help him investigate a remote cavern that might be connected to his father’s disappearance.

He finds a lot more than he bargained for. After a harrowing adventure, Jack wanders into the nearby town of Beckon, whose citizens seem friendly enough until he begins to share the details of his little expedition. At this point, Jack realizes he’s in even more trouble than he thought.

And then…fade to black, and it’s off to the next protagonist. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.

Pawlik doesn’t waste much time with preliminaries. He sets the stage quickly with the mystery of David Hendrick’s vanishing, hands Jack an enigmatic clue, and sends him, and us, off to Wyoming for a little extreme spelunking.

Really extreme spelunking.

What-in-the-Mines-of-Moria-possessed-you-to-enter-this-lightless-hole-you-idiot spelunking.

There are some very strong echoes of Stephen King here, what with Native American legends, ancient terrors lurking in dark, dank caverns, and a firm reminder that some forgotten towns are forgotten purposely, for reasons we’re better off not knowing.

Beckon makes a good first impression. Pawlik’s direct, unadorned style yields a quick and easy read, though I think there was room to build up a little more suspense—the pacing of the first section felt a bit like one of the Indiana Jones movies, plunging from hazard to hazard with little time for reflection. Or perhaps I was just reading too fast. It’s fun, though, and I expect most readers will be quickly hooked.

I was unable to find a reference for a tribe called the Caieche. It may simply be obscure. If not, I’m curious about why Pawlik chose to go with a fictional Native American community. He may have figured it was better not to saddle a real tribe with fictional lore. Anyhow, if Tom’s looking in on the Tour, I’d be interested to hear about his thought process for this aspect of the story.

Tiny Spoiler Zone Ahead

The supporting cast takes a pretty harsh beating right out of the gate, but I’ve not seen a body yet, so I won’t jump to conclusions about that issue, especially given the book’s subtitle: “Come. And Live Forever.”

End Tiny Spoiler Zone, and Today’s Review.

Be sure to check out the other fine sites on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour:

Purchase Beckon http://www.amazon.com/Beckon-Tom-Pawlik/dp/1414338732/ Tom Pawlik’s Web site  – http://www.tompawlik.com/
Tom Pawlik’s Blog – http://tompawlik.blogspot.com/
Tom Pawlik’s Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tom-Pawlik/42692434035
Author Twitter account – https://twitter.com/#!/TomPawlik
(Wow, this guy is seriously networked)

Noah Arsenault
Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Theresa Dunlap
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Leighton
Rebekah Loper
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Joan Nienhuis
Faye Oygard
Crista Richey
Kathleen Smith
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger

>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<

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2 thoughts on “May CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1: Beckon, by Tom Pawlik

  1. Hi Fred, I do read these and to your question on the Caieche, I wanted to create an entirely fictional Indian tribe so as not to disparage any actual tribes or to take undo liberties with their mythologies. Thanks for the great 1st day, I’ll be back for more.

    1. Thanks, Tom. I think that was a good call, though I’ve seen some folks dig out an existing myth that parallels their scenario and develop it a little further. Unless you’ve got a tribal council on speed dial, things could get messy. It’s a sensitive issue, and with a lot more non-Western writers coming to the fore in spec-fic, it’s popping up more in discussion. It’s not just about Western writers misrepresenting other cultures—writers native to those cultures are also struggling with expectations. Here are a couple of links to a cool roundtable discussion on this topic:

      http://worldsf.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/monday-original-content-non-western-sf-roundtable-part-1/

      http://worldsf.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/original-content-non-western-sf-roundtable-part-2/

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