Recommendation Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (Avoid at all costs, unless you are looking for something to read over the PA to demoralize the prisoners in your internment camp.)
Please familiarize yourself with my rating system before you fire off angry emails.
Story/Plot: Hitman’s Journey Back in Time is a series of a extremely cliché ideas strung together in a very haphazard fashion. The story is told very poorly, as the author will frequently introduce things things mid-sentence to justify current actions. The story was clearly written in a single pass with absolutely no editing. It’s like hearing a kid tell a story with a lot of ‘…and then he used his robot arm -oh yeah, the guy also had a robot arm- to smash the lock’ type stuff.
Characterization: The characterization is also very poor. Every character speaks with exactly the same voice, and in ways that no one ever speaks. Here is a direct bit of dialog: “Can you afford to buy crack? I could really use some right now, baby darling,” Tina said. “I would have to contact Fred and find out when he’ll have more. I still have two pounds of marijuana left, sugar cakes,” said Bill. In a bigger sense though, the dialogue is just clunky and unnatural. The author might say, “You had better crouch down, Jonathon, the guy behind you has a gun and is about to pull the trigger!” when what someone would really say would be more like, “Duck!” The only reason I am rating the characterization as high as a three is because I like the top hat. It absolutely doesn’t deserve to score this high.
Originality: Again, everything in this story is very cliché. While it is possible that no one has strung together these tired, old ideas in exactly this order, I think someone probably has. I am giving it a two points only for the scenes where we see Ben dressed in a full suit, with top hat, recounting his story to an invisible audience. This despite wearing this attire in prison, where there is no way they would allow him in street clothes.
Readability: I’m rating this at 0 stars, and it earned every one of them! This is the worst writing I have ever seen in a book. Thousands (and that is not an exaggeration) of times throughout, the author misuses tenses: is/was, have/has/had, see/saw/seen, past/passed, and virtually every other grammar lesson standby. The author bounces from scene to scene without a break, which leads to some bizarre sentences: “It is two years later now and Ben is sitting on the couch.” The author also uses quotation marks where he should instead use italics or nothing at all. An example of the former being a reference to the television show “Days of our Lives” instead of Days of our Lives. To emphasize single words, he also uses quotations instead of italics, which, coupled with the horrible dialogue, often makes it difficult to differentiate the two. All that, paired with the clunky dialogue, makes this a very laborious read.
Engagement: In my notes detailing the scoring system, I said, “If I make it all the way through a book, it will rate at least 7/10 in this category.” I was totally off base on that. It turns out I had underestimated my perseverance when I had a cool 99¢ on the line. There is very little engagement in this story. The events are thrown together so poorly that you couldn’t be drawn in if you wanted to. Half of the book is detailing Ben’s horrible childhood, while the other half is him as a hitman. The author tries to add tension during the flashbacks to the past (I think), but since Ben is telling the story from a prison cell, we have no real connection to any of the characters there. Ben isn’t close to anyone in his family (except when it becomes necessary that he had been. And by that, I mean that late in the book it became necessary that he was close with his sister, which he never had been, so the author just says, ‘Ben was close to his sister’), so there isn’t any attachment to them or the events. Like reading about a plane crash. It’s terrible, sure, but if you didn’t know anyone on the plane, you aren’t really invested in it and probably don’t care. Yet I did read the whole thing, so I’m throwing him a couple of stars.
Some spoiler-heavy things that stuck in my mind:
The author frequently uses phrasing such as “if they only knew what was going to happen to them.” to try to build tension. If you are writing a story and find yourself using lines like that, you need to either stop writing it altogether or go back and write something into the story that naturally builds tension. Adding lines like this are akin to saying, “alright guys, I know it’s sucked so far, but there’s going to be something happening eventually!”
There is a rape ‘scene’ in the story. While the scene is only a couple of paragraphs (with absolutely no setup or tension), it is still handled very oddly. Ben is watching the guy rape his sister. Upon finishing the task at hand, he turns to Ben and says, “What is it, boy? Did you ever not see a big hairy dick before?” The man laughed. “Do you want to see my big dick again or something?” But a couple of paragraphs later, his dad says, “The good thing is, the next door neighbor got a good luck at him…” so, was Ben really staring so hard at the guy’s dick that he didn’t ever look at his face?
Ben’s father’s car is hit by a drunk driver. After the collision (the car is hit in the side by another car going seventy miles per hour), his father is in the hospital with “minor cuts to his face and a ruptured spleen”. He dies before morning. First, if the car hit you at seventy, you are going to have more than minor cuts to your face. Second, if you are going to die from a ruptured spleen, it is going to be because you didn’t make it to the hospital in time, not after you are at the hospital, awake and aware for a while. Third, the receptionist at the hospital isn’t going to be the one that calls you to tell you about it. Fourth, Ben “stops” his mother from going to see him at the hospital by taking her upstairs to bed… He leaves the house after he does so. She has a car. Why didn’t she just drive on over?
Late in the book, someone is disguised simply by wearing a hat. When he takes the hat off, the man who didn’t recognize hims says, “I didn’t recognize you…” Seriously?
I love this little bit from early in the story (take this whole thing with big old [sic]):
Ben (pointing at the chalkboard), which there/there is correct in the sentence?” Mrs. Rosales asked.
One sentence read “There is a good chance I won’t make it to my appointment on time.” The other sentence is exactly the same, except with the word “Their.”
Ben really had no clue, so he just guessed. “It would be the ‘There’ spelled capital T and then lowercased h.e.r.e,” said Ben.
“That’s correct, Ben. Now, how did you come to that conclusion?” Mrs. Rosales asked.
There was a long pause, and by this point Mrs. Rosales knew that Ben had just guessed.
“Does anyone here know why ‘There’ (pointing to chalkboard) would be correct?” Mrs. Rosales asked.
A girl by the name of Sarah puts her hand up all gleefully 100 percent confident that she knew why. Mrs. Rosales points at Sarah. “Capital T. lowercased h.e.r.e. is correct because it’s not showing any ownership. If it did show ownership, it would then be spelled the other way,” said Sarah.
When I set up my rating system, I gave one-star the recommendation rating of “Avoid at all costs, unless you are looking for something to read over the PA to demoralize the prisoners in your internment camp” fully expecting to never rate a book one star. I really wish I didn’t have to use it here, but I can’t in good conscience rate this title any higher.