Review: J Eathen Satterwhite’s Vanguard Society

The Vanguard Society (The Vanguard Saga)The Vanguard Society by J. Eathen Satterwhite
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The cover of The Vanguard Society is a black and white affair. A woman’s face peers out, drawn in black ink and effecting a kind of negative image of a women standing in the dark with a little light spilling over her face. Some books pull this off well enough, e.g. The World House, a book I reviewed a few months ago also had a black on white cover with a simplistic drawing of a house on the front. Perhaps it’s the typography of the title and author’s name, but somehow the cover appears to be a DIY job.
The blurb continues the approach of simplicity, outlining in few words the gist of the plot, to the effect of “Immortal humans exist. In seven days, the truth will be revealed.” It was this simple statement that perked my interest. The book is pitched as science fiction and runs to 53,500 words.
The plot follows the main protagonist, Gabriel Bordeaux, a young immortal who has been trying to live a ‘normal’ life with his beautiful fiancé. Then one day, whilst out jogging, he is hit by a truck. Miraculously, Gabriel is unharmed and manages to run away before anyone sees his face. He realises that there is no way he can continue the façade of normalcy and returns home to confess the truth he has been hiding. Soon after, he receives a phone call from his doctor, which leads to Gabriel having to abandon his previous life to be inducted into a small community of immortals, people who have amassed great fortunes, knowledge and skills over the centuries. They have been living hidden from human knowledge but someone is trying to publicly reveal their secrets. Gabriel and his new friends must quickly learn who is behind this plot and stop them before they go public.
The Vanguard Society is written entirely in the second person, i.e. the narrator addresses the reader as if they are the protagonist. This method works well in role playing games and role playing books like the Choose Your Own Adventure series or the Fighting Fantasy books. It does not lend itself well to the kind of narrative that requires you to develop an emotional attachment to the main character and his/her plight. This is the major stumbling block for this book. Also, missing words and letters occur frequently enough for it to become irritating, but not really a major issue.
Perhaps it was the choice of using second person perspective, but I found it very difficult to empathise with Gabriel or his Immortal friends. At one point he suffers a major loss, but the writer is unable to give us an insight into what is going on in Gabriel’s head and this is exactly why third person and first person perspectives are the preferred mode of writing. The world-building itself was minimal as the story is set in the real world. I did struggle to get my head around the way the immortals throw money around. At one point a man is offered a million dollars for the use of a plane they could have bought brand new for less. But again, that is unimportant. The dialogue is stilted and overly verbose, but does not reflect the rest of the prose, which aside from the perspective bug-bear is quite well put together.
This not quite science-fiction story has very little to recommend it above other self-published books, but that said, the writing for most part is good and whilst the story isn’t gripping, it is still readable enough for light reading.

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