[book review] The Unity Game by Leonora Meriel

A few weeks ago, I responded to a book tour request and volunteered to read and review the book The Unity Game by Leonora Meriel. I’m having difficulty finishing it, so instead of forcing myself to finish a book I don’t enjoy, I’m going to blog about why I find it a slow read. The book follows several different characters, and their stories initially seem interesting but then fail to go anywhere quickly. I decided that while this could be an enjoyable read for some people, it just wasn’t for me. I’ve de-harsh-ified my review, but I still want to express my frustration with both the pace and the writing style.

I’ve been trying to read The Unity Game over the last week but have only gotten about 10% through the book. A week to read a book normally wouldn’t be an issue for me, but reading this story feels like work. A lot of work.

The book is marketed as a “metaphysical thriller and interstellar mystery.” The latter part is what interested me. The former is probably where I’m losing interest. The writing is very impressionistic. I feel like it’s meant to be poetry in prose. Here’s an example of a sentence that has lovely imagery but is ultimately frustrating due to frequency. There’s so much dreamy prose that it pads the story and slows the pace.

Together, they floated among the thick carpet of stars, the questions, trailing out in silver threads, searching for their answers, searching for the symmetry to complete them, the stars around them rising and fading, held by precise mathematical equations to the moving, living universe around them.

Leonora Meriel. The Unity Game (Kindle Locations 4433-4435). Granite Cloud.

I’ve read books with excessive imagery, but I feel like the ones I still enjoy make more progress than this one. It feels as if Meriel is trying to capture an ethereal quality, but the longer the description, the less ethereal it feels as it’s weighed down by its own words.

I’m a plot-focused reader. I appreciate well-developed characters, but they still need to do something other than reflect on their surroundings. It is a rare book that can convince me to meander with it through people’s lives, content to let it lead me from observation to observation, trusting that there will be something meaningful by the end. But I realize that some people are happy to experience the journey that never ends, so I am not trying to say the book isn’t worth reading, just that it isn’t up my alley.

I was also frustrated by the redundancy of the writing. There was a bit of this in the large picture. Some scenes tried to over-explain or over-describe the setting. But I felt like throwing my hands up with some of the line-by-line redundancy. Here’s an example of a paragraph that has a lot of potential but is too long and redundant. It could have been beautiful, but I lost interest partway through.

She thought that they could be floating right now through space, side by side, just floating, asking each other questions, and she thought that they could be two sparks of consciousness, without any bodies, just floating side by side, exchanging questions and answers.

Leonora Meriel. The Unity Game (Kindle Locations 4406-4409). Granite Cloud.

Repetition is an effective tool if used properly. There are two “side by side” phrases in the same sentence. The word “floating” has been tossed in three times. Does “she thought that they could be” need to be reiterated so soon? Was there a chance that halfway through the sentence we were going to forget that she was thinking these things? There are three different types of repetition in the same sentence. And I’m not even including “questions.” I think it was meant to evoke a sense of drifting to mimic the character’s train of thought, but it’s tedious. Instead of focusing on the story, I become conscious that this book is taking up much more time than it needs to be.

I’m not going to get into the wordiness of the advanced being’s PoV other than to say that I feel the formal style could have been used less often to better effect. I’m interested in the outcome for each character, but not enough to finish the book. The pace is much too slow for me to enjoy. The word choice and sentence length sabotage the author’s goals. I’d settle for a Wikipedia entry that summarized the plot for me.

Have your read this story and loved it? If so, do you normally enjoy flowery language or did something else draw you in? How did your experience differ from mine?

This is the first very negative review of a book I’ve written. I considered posting nothing, but I want to finish what I started. The reviews for this book on Amazon and Goodreads are mostly positive. I wonder why my response is so different.

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