Book Review: 'Descending Son' by Scott Shepherd

Feb 19, 2014

The story takes a while to get going, but once it does it's worth 6 out of 10 stars.

'Descending Son' cover. This scene is in the book, but it's an SUV! It's the little details sometimes...

I got my hands on Descending Son through the Amazon Kindle First program that’s available to Prime customers. If you aren’t familiar with the program, it’s fairly simple. If you have a Prime membership and a Kindle device or reading app, then you can get early access one free book a month! So Descending Son wasn’t officially released until February 1, but you could get it early (and free) if you have a Prime membership.

I’ve only had the service for a few months but I was happy to see a horror book as one of the options. I was wary about the quality of the book, and some of my concerns were validated. I did a little bit of research on Scott Shepherd, which is par for the course when I read a new author. I was excited to find out Shepherd was a writer for Quantum Leap. I grew up watching that show, and while I don’t recall the quality of the writing I was definitely a fan of the overall premise. I figured anyone who had been a part of that would be at least somewhat aligned with my preferences, and I was right.

Warning: Potential spoiler alerts ahead: If you want to be surprised about everything in the book then you should go read it now.

Seriously, here’s a link to go buy the book on Amazon. I gave it a 6 out of 10, so if you have nothing to read and you’re intrigued by the guy from Quantum Leap then go for it. There are certainly better books out there. You can do much, much worse than Descending Son though.

End spoiler warning

Descending Son is a horror book about vampires. It took me a while to understand why Amazon had marketed the book in the horror genre, however, because I didn’t find out about the vampires until a third of the way into the book. At least it felt like a third. I’m not sure if that’s technically accurate. Either way I found myself wondering about the storyline and where it was going, which led to an interesting phenomenon that I haven’t experienced often.

It turns out that when I approach a story with one idea in mind — in this case the fact that I was going to read something scary — it is much easier to step out of the storyline and start predicting when my expectations aren’t met. I’ve read a lot of stories (both involving vampires and not) so I found myself accurately predicting what was going to happen. After I did it a few times I started looking for clues and treating the experience more like a mystery to be solved than a story to be followed. I’m not saying that Shepherd’s story was predictable, or that he failed in his storytelling. I am saying that, for me at least, it was hard to stay involved with the story and characters because I kept jumping out.

I think part of the failure here is on my end, but there are also faults to be found in the book. Shepherd is a decent enough writer, but the vampire story is hard to tackle successfully. It’s been done before, and done quite well, so that’s setting a high bar.

This vampire story follows Jess Stark into some interesting and somewhat harrowing situations. We meet Jess as he is being buried alive, and the story goes from there. Vampires come into play, things happen, and there’s some kind of a resolution.

That description seems like a bland version of every story you’ve ever read, right? That’s kind of how the book left me. I enjoyed parts of it, but mostly I just felt ambivalent about it all. I didn’t dislike it enough to stop reading, and I’m not unhappy about taking the time to read it even if I do have an entire bookcase waiting to be read.

I will read Scott Shepherd again, but on one condition: He must go back and put right what once went wrong. Descending Son was almost there, and I’m sure he and Sam Beckett can make it right again.

You’ve read this far, which means you might want to purchase the book. I can’t say it will be the best purchase you’ve ever made, but it likely won’t be the worst.

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