By Alex Stargazer

Free will.  Does it truly exist?  Wherever you choose to go on this planet you will find human civilizations which create and enforce laws, norms and values.  The population in these societies are expected to follow the prescribed standards.  While some nations are stricter in the creation and enforcement of these norms, the bottom line is that they do exist across the globe.  Therefore, it can be reasonably argued that in such conditions, “free will” many not truly exist anywhere.  I find this concept to be provocative.  So when I came across the story The Sandman by Alex Stargazer, I was intrigued.  After all, the main character is a young woman who is betrothed to a man she cannot stand.  Part of the norms of her society dictate this even though it goes against her wishes or free will.  While all of this has the earmark of a great story, the actual product is unable to match the potential.

Essentially, the book focuses upon the main character Leila’s encounter with a strange entity known as the Sandman.  Leila is being forced into a marriage against her will with a man she hates.  She is a boiling pot of anger and despair when she encounters the Sandman.  In a series of riddles and statements, he encourages Leila to question her life and the rules governing it…and to take action to enact change.  That is the story in a nutshell.

Once again, the story has potential.  The ideas are dogmatic and sure to generate controversy and passion.  Whatever side of the coin you are on- at the very least it should get people talking.  However, the story events and ideas are just not properly executed.  For instance, the actual plot involves no more than a conversation between Leila and an entity which may or may not be human.  There is no real opportunity for the reader to become captivated or engrossed in the story events.  Unfortunately, on the traditional story map diagram, this tale would flatline.

In regards to character development, it is very limited.  For example, there is little background given about Leila and I am still struggling to figure out who the Sandman is.  There is no opportunity for the reader to develop any type of connection or empathy with the characters.  Without feeling an authentic connection to the characters, the reader will just not get engaged in the story.  They are neither believable or memorable.

While the plot and character development needs work, I am afraid so does the actual writing.  There is not a natural flow and it comes across as quite pedantic.  A number of complicated words are thrown into the short story which block any type of smooth progression of ideas.  It seems such words are put there for their own sake as opposed to having the mission of actually enhancing the tale.

Overall, a good idea with potential which fails in the execution.  I understand it was written as part of an assignment, but once something is published it becomes subject to scrutiny and analysis.  The author does explain his story at the conclusion, but this is not a tactic which will appeal to many readers.  Part of the enjoyment of reading is trying to get into the author’s head.  When this is already neatly laid out for the reader it removes any type of challenge or mystery.

2.5 out of 5 Sandy Stars for this one!