Shadows Beneath by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler

Shadows Beneath.jpgThe goals this book is trying to accomplish are ambitious and I think from that perspective it is a raging success. As a work of fiction I think the stories themselves are only of mediocre quality compared to what each of these authors has produced before.

Each story comes with at least one early draft, the transcript of their podcast where they workshopped the idea and the draft and then author’s notes as well as the finished product.

For research and education purposes this is invaluable. I feel like college writing classes should be using this as a text book. It can be studied and compared. The rough draft version of each story shows which parts were cut out and what was added to make the final draft so that an outside vision of the each author’s writing process can take shape.

As far as the stories I found them to be entertaining but ultimately unsatisfying. I liked Kowal’s story the best but found the ending a little too neat and quick. Dan Wells never named any of his characters and kept them at a distance that made it hard to get into — the idea was fun but the execution felt like a cliff-notes version. Howard Tayler wrote a great character and a fascinating idea but had a story that needed a slightly longer format and so sounded full of exposition that came across as awkward. Sanderson’s Sixth of the Dusk, besides being hard to say out loud, kind of dragged and was hard to follow. Normally I like the slow build of Sanderson’s work but this one just seemed to be going nowhere.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is curious about the writing process or who needs a tool to study how authors edit their own work or how they think about their ideas and develop them. For entertainment purposes it’s very definitely middle ground.

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