A Kellogg Review
A View from Beyond the Path
Published in Paperback by Washington House (February 2003)
Average review score:
Oh what a web we weave...
This is a first novel that appears to contain much autobiographical material. The characters are complex in terms of the plot, but are written as if they all think alike. Their inner voice is clearly that of the author, to the extent that it can become difficult to tell them apart. Mr. Kellogg would be well-served to try to have future characters think differently from one another if their thoughts are going to be put on display on page after page. Once you wade through the first chapter, Kellogg seems to feel more secure in his writing and in much more of a flow, but the beginning of the book is painfully obtuse and overly descriptive. Readers want to be able to image things themselves from short encompassing descriptions. Instead, we are left with a story that leads with one sentence of minor action (the main character "had been engrossed") and then fourteen long sentences of descriptions of scenery before jumping back to the action. The author tries too hard to impress and fails in his efforts. A good dose of reading say, Robert Ludlum and Louis L'Amour would do the author some good. I would also suggest Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card. It does get better and Kellogg's next book should be something to look forward to. Another recent featured review covers Heinlein's first book, and as a story this book is much better, so Kellogg should certainly not give up on writing. The plot is good, with a continual dark desperation by all contrasted with real life dilemmas. The way in which the plot moves seemingly without the character's direction makes an interesting statement about chance forces changing people's lives for better (or in this case) for worse. In contrast, a debate about responsibility for one's actions, which would seem natural given the plot, is curiously missing. Not debated or vanquished, just missing. There is one character (the most evil, on the face of things) that tries to take responsibility for his past actions, but is quickly executed for it in a misunderstanding. This book has serious futility issues. The interaction of the plot and the characters and how the characters deal with the implications of the central point of the plot, a rape, displays life-like misunderstandings between individuals that are so realistic as to make me believe they were drawn from real life. In most novels, people aren't nearly as uncomprehending as they are in reality, but they are in this book. I'm not sure if Kellogg was just playing to the literary/academic crowd, but his novel lacks any sort of redemption by most of the characters. In that sense it promotes a hopeless quality of life that would lead one to believe that things will turn out badly no matter what one's intentions or actions. As a book to keep a person poor in spirit, the book excels, but overall it's a bit too dark for my personal taste. - Thomas Sewell