by: James Stevens-Arce
Review by: Lee
Having read several good reviews for this book, I was
looking forward to reading Soulsaver. This award-winning
novel has received some fairly high accolades, and so my
curiosity was piqued.
Set in a dysfunctional religious society, Soulsaver
follows young Juan Bautista, a rookie Soulsaver whose job
it is to save the souls of the city's suicide victims.
His faith is put to the ultimate test when he learns of
the existence of an underground sect, who believe that
the second coming will be far different from the one the
Christians are preaching. He also learns a little about
the true nature of the people he has been blindly
following his entire life.
Stevens offers readers a frightening view of the future
gone wrong. His idea is sound, the writing is
professional and the premise is cleverly planned, if
overly simplified. Unfortunately, I personally found the
book a little difficult to get involved in.
The author has opted to tell Soulsaver in the
first person, and has also chosen to relay Juan Bautista's
tale in the present tense - both difficult styles to
master, and even harder to read. The author's writing
style is tight and precise, and there are no visible
spelling or grammatical errors (which makes a nice change!),
but some of the characterizations and events within the
story are underdeveloped.
I found the protagonist's character to be somewhat
annoying. Juan Bautista is portrayed as being shallow,
self-involved, juvenile and quite mindless, all of which
fit the story beautifully. His propensity for using slang
terms to describe situations began as a cute insight into
his immaturity, but quickly began to grate on my nerves.
"Sally Silly" or even "Annie Annoying",
as Juan would be attributed to saying.
There does not seem to be a lot of character development
outside of the immediate protagonist, which is
unfortunate, as there seemed to be plenty of potential
for expansion. Each chapter also felt as though it ended
too quickly, without reaching any real resolution or
setting up any particular reason to turn the page.
Overall I was disappointed with what promised to be an
interesting book. There were definitely lost
opportunities where the author could have expanded or
complicated the plot further. The protagonist did not
seem to have altered far from his initial juvenile self,
even in the face of dramatic life-changing events (deaths,
births, belief-shattering paradoxes). The plot had an
oversimplified feel throughout, and the antagonist, only
revealed as such toward the end, did not ring true as a
Because this book was technically well-written, I will
rate Soulsaver * * 1/2
SOULSAVER / Winner of the 1997 UPC Award / New from
"Strongly recommended." -- Library Journal
Best First Novel 2000 - Denver Rocky Mountain News
Tops of 2000 - San Francisco Chronicle
New and Notable & Best First Novel - Locus Magazine
* * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* = Slow, difficult to read, could have been
* = Imminently