Absinthe Literary Review, Book Reviews Spring 2002
B O O K   R E V I E W

Spring 2003

Hobble by Neale Sourna  


Neale Sourna
Infinity Publishing, Pennsylvania
291 pp. $18.95




It’s books like Neale Sourna’s Hobble: An Adult Fiction that make us seriously consider giving up the reviewing of self-published books. Though well-meaning, Sourna makes just about every mistake possible with this weakly written, amateurish yarn about sex and control. The back-cover blurb lays out the story like this (normally we'd break it down ourselves, but in cases like this, it would be a waste of time):

"BENNET GILLESPIE, a brilliant but burned out, Native American surgeon, too quickly becomes entangled in an obsessively sexual, emotional tug of war for irresistible, homicidally "insane," and ... mysteriously lamed DAY, whose body and love promises loss of soul ... and life."


Sic. Simply count the ly's in the setup and you'll begin to see the problem. Now contrary to industry standards, we at ALR are champions of muscular modifier use in fiction, but authors need to use some common sense for crying out loud. Sourna shows very little. This inattention to prose fundamentals doesn't stop at verb and noun modifiers—oh no. The author commits almost every classic beginner's error: failing to identify the speaker in dialogue for pages at a time; over-over-OVERwriting; cliché; reckless, silly, and downright incorrect usage; horrendously melodramatic dialogue and narrative; general lack of descriptive elements; a droning repetitive voice prone to redundancy and self-indulgence.

The story and characters aren't bad on a basic level. A decent professional writer could have done something with the character and relationships, but Sourna uses them so ineffectively and broadly that the reader gets bored after a page or two—every page or two. The numerous sex sections, which at least show a hint of natural spark, aren't enough to pull this self-published novel out of its self-involved spiral.

Despite all the negatives of Hobble, Sourna isn't necessarily a lost cause. As we said, her basic ideas are fairly strong. A year or five in a solid critically-based fiction writing program (which is quite different from film and video writing—Sourna's alleged areas of expertise) or a no-holds-barred, rip-the-story-apart workshop environment might just make her understand how naive she was to think this book worth publishing, especially at $18.95 softcover! Our diatribe against Publish America's policies in our review of Nathan Leslie's Rants and Raves applies to Infinity Publishing's practices as well. These online publishing “stores” are preying on the meek, the young, and the yet-to-be-talented—which would be fine if these people would just stop sending their half-told tales out for review.

Unfortunately Sourna is not alone in her folly, and it is our sincere hope that this review communicates the world-wise message to all prospective self-publishers out there: Think twice before going that route. This applies especially to those under the age of thirty (or forty) with little or no experience in writing for publication. It doesn't matter how much of a genius you are—odds are the mistakes this author made in Hobble are the ones you'll make in your book, so you had better be damned sure you know the Ten-Thousand Things about writing before you throw underdone hamburger to the big dogs. True, they may eat it, but we guarantee it's not going to look pretty when it gets vomited back at you a few hours later.