Spoiler Free Summary: Lenders: The Unlicensed Consciousness by Travis Borne is the first book in the Lenders Saga. Machines have taken over the world, and humanity is nearly eradicated. In what may be the last town (cities have been long gone for years) of civilization, people live safely behind the walls. Those walls are guarded by another set of machines, machines powered by Lenders. Amy has always been different. A rare human rescued and brought to the town, she seems to have a natural talent that might reveal the way to save everyone, but her very nature challenges a way of life some don’t want to leave behind. What will Amy do when humanity’s own selfish desires force her to choose between herself and the rest of her home?
Notes up front: I mentioned this on my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. This is, unfortunately, the worst book I’ve ever read. This review will cover my reasons. But there are some things I need to mention. According to the e-book’s buy page on Amazon, the most current edition is the fifth edition. So it’s possible I read a very early draft. Also, just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t. Again, I’ll list my reasons below, but I want to give Mr. Borne fair credit. This title has more reviews and a higher rating than any one of my titles, and that’s a credit to him. So take my thoughts with some salt. I’m one man with one opinion.
Character: If you are a reader or an aspiring author who wonders what a Mary Sue is, look no further than Amy. I can think of at least six times when other character marveled at Amy and what a “natural” she was from flying a space ship to acting as a Lender. Some of the plot points explain it, but the book never challenges Amy. She’s perfectly capable, perfectly sympathetic (nice), and immensely powerful. This makes her boring when she isn’t simply annoying. She never faces a challenge. She never displays a hint of anything but a unrealistic and frustrating Pollyanna view of this world full of murder and violence. It’s frankly unrealistic. Maybe she might choose to always do the right thing, but she never even appears to struggle with the decisions or express any anger or frustration. This book is oddly divided into four parts (by my estimation). Another character, Harold, has a much more interesting arc. I’m of the opinion that his story was far more worth while than Amy’s, but even that story has several issues.
Exposition: What scenes were written to show the reader what was happening rather than telling the reader what happened seemed crammed with unclear metaphor and mental soliloquies that would make even the most avid Attack on Titan fans (man they have a ton of internal angst dialogue scenes) stop watching the show. It seemed that every action required some expository sermon about the nature of humanity and how awful it is. This is made even harder to read because the draft I read was so poorly proofread. I honestly couldn’t tell what parts were just (bad) metaphors and which were flat out written incorrectly. At least seventy percent of the novel is exposition. The paragraphs are multiple pages long (That’s not an exaggeration). For every line of plot, the reader has to suffer through a full page of typo-filled exposition, and that’s not something I’m willing to do.
Worldbuilding: The arrangement of this worldbuilding is probably the cause of why it feels so off. Everything in this book happens a moment before it’s needed. Solutions that (through exposition) were set up well before the plot point is reached are only explained (through) exposition as a sort of explanation of how it was made possible as opposed to woven through the plot in a manner that leads to a satisfying realization. Consider for a moment that there are some Matrix-like connections (though I promise its not so much as a ripoff). Those interludes serve only to fill plot and don’t build character in any way. What could have been a cautionary story about what happens when evil man gains too much power or creates a power that exceeds his own, is instead just an unfortunate series of events that rarely show any hope for humanity. As with everything else in this book, a near impossible-to-believe rescue comes and goes. Then we get a five page speech about how it was made possible. So much telling. So little showing.
Dialogue: A large portion of the dialogue here is more given for plot and exposition than actual growth or character study. I will say the voices of the characters were unique. The problem was that these original voices were buried in hundreds (if not thousands) of words where the author gets in the way of the story rather than letting the characters live the story. So this possibly redeeming quality of the story is suffocated by the rest.
Description: This book shows that lots of words to tell what happened don’t come anywhere near the quality of carefully chosen words that show what happened. Possibly well-done description of scenes and settings were covered by poorly chosen metaphors. Unfortunately, the most care was placed into the most disturbing visuals. I completely understand the need for graphic detail, especially in cautionary stories. However, when the only careful description is given to those portions of the book, it feels like violence for the sake of violence. Again, I have plenty of graphic scenes in my own work, they just aren’t the only scenes with description in them. I had to mention that because I want to be clear that I’m well aware of my own content. So I either have to acknowledge that and explain what I feel the difference is or avoid it and be called out as a hypocrite. Some may feel I’m still a hypocrite, and they have a right to their opinions. What I hope to distinguish is a story where the most of the content we see clearly is gore and a story that is complete in its description, some of which is gore.
Overall: There is a viable concept in this book. The author mentioned multiple drafts, and it’s possible the story is far better than the draft I read. Structurally, it’s segmented into two timelines that never really come together in a satisfying way. The earlier timeline is far more interesting because the characters are so very flawed. Amy isn’t interesting at all. Grammatically, it’s very demanding on the eye. I want to give credit to the author. It is very clear how much love and effort he put into this. I can see the energy he put into outlining and drafting. So while I will be honest about how hard this book was to read, I would never want to simply say rude things for the sake of cruelty. I understand that all of this might be hard to read if the author makes his way to this page. I feel just as inclined to talk about why a story didn’t work for me (like this one didn’t) as I do about why stories work for me (like The White Dragon). I actually feel very happy that there are new editions out there because, like any story, this one could really shine with the right editing team and the right amount of work, and I hope that’s happened. I’m not inclined to try and read it again, but I do hope that you don’t let my opinion sway your opinion. Again, there are several reviews where readers loved the story, so take my singular opinion for what it is.
Thanks for reading,