Book Review: Breach of Peace, by Daniel B. Greene
Despite the frankly embarrassing amount of entertainment available to me, I’ve been watching more YouTube stuff than I did before. I think the more conversational nature of a lot of channels acts as a vague substitute for actual human conversation. Plus, YouTube has a lot of niche (read, super nerdy) content. And recently, I’ve even found people talking about books on YouTube! Which is kind of what I’m doing here, only in, like, video form (by people who are younger and hipper and better at video editing than I am).
One of the first “booktubters” I came across is one Daniel Greene. I first stumbled across his channel when he was ranting about how bad Robert Newcomb’s The Fifth Sorceress (one of the worst books I’ve ever read, for the record) is, so at least he’s got good taste.
And Greene just wrote a book! Or, uh, a novella. It’s actually kind of interesting in that he’s also got a bunch of youtube videos talking about his writing/publishing process. See, Greene wrote Breach of Peace as kind of a warm up, something to build up to a ‘full’ novel. Which, y’know, makes sense, especially since there aren’t many short story/novella markets as there used to be. Though the internet has opened up a lot more short fiction venues than there used to be, say, even ten years or so ago.
Breach of Peace probably could have benefited from some closer editing– which is something that’s probably true of most self-published books. It’s not unreadable, by any stretch, but there are a couple of weird bits in there. Like, there’s a line that says a character “cocked his pistol’s revolver,” which is either a typo, or an indication that Greene doesn’t know how guns work.
In any case, might as well talk about the plot, huh? Breach of Peace is a detective story, centering on three (really, two, as the third one doesn’t get as much characterization) inspectors investigating a horrific murder. The book kind of reminded me of Law & Order, of all things. Very procedural-ish, in that respect. Naturally, the investigation leads to a larger conspiracy–
–and that’s it.
I suppose the fact that my first reaction is that ‘there should be more of it,’ is a good sign. Honestly, Greene has the skeleton of a full novel– if he went ahead and built up the actual investigation, he could easily expand Breach of Peace into something larger. Though honestly, the mystery part … really isn’t. Like, it basically boils down to the characters going “oh hey I talked to a guy and now we know everything that happened.”
But Breach of Peace is supposed to be a fantasy book more than a mystery story … except, uh. It doesn’t have to be. Like, there are a few greebly monsters, and some mention of a big high overlord demigod guy ruling over the entire society. Which in itself vaguely reminds me of the first Mistborn book– considering Greene’s a big Sanderson fan, that follows.
Despite the fantasy elements, Breach of Peace could honestly be reskinned into dystopian sci-fi with only a couple of minor changes, and maybe some different cover art. Do I want Greene to awkwardly shoehorn some elves and Gandalfs into the book? No. But at the same time I think the book would be a bit stronger if it did more to distinguish the world as a unique fantasy setting. Something as small as some weirdo place names or little glimpses at the wider world would go far to distinguish the setting as something more than ‘generic rainy noir city.’
MILD SPOILER ALERT: So, this book has a heck of a downer ending. Which just feels a bit … off? Like, it makes sense in the context of the book, but as a standalone thing, it’s not very satisfying. There’s a place for tragic endings, sure, but they work better when they stem from the choices (usually bad ones) that the characters make. In Breach of Peace, it’s more “rocks fall, everyone dies” and … that’s it. Compare this to, say, The Builders, which, at a similar length, is even grimmer and more violent (and is about talking animals!), but still manages to have a satisfying ending.
So yeah. Breach of Peace is entertaining, if not mind-blowing. It’s a quick afternoon’s read, and a nice way to support a guy doing interesting stuff on YouTube and, uh … that’s it? I’ve read better books, sure– but I’ve also read far, far worse. If anything, I’d like to see Greene write a full-sized novel, but I imagine I’ll probably be waiting awhile for that.