Tom Pawlik’s VANISH and VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

Vanish by Tom Pawlik

Today I am reviewing VANISH by Tom Pawlik.

This review is part of the June Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, and we are reviewing Tom’s first book even though his second book, VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, has just come out.

The first thing I did when I heard about this tour was to go over to Tom’s website and read the first chapter of Vanish—and I was hooked. Tom obviously knows how to write, and to write a book filled with suspense mystery and the supernatural.

Here’s a quick critique of what I’ve seen:

The Opening Lines Of VANISH

It all began with a feeling. Just an eerie feeling.

Conner Hayden peered out his office window at the hazy downtown Chicago vista. Heat plumes radiated from tar-covered rooftops baking in the midafternoon sun. A late-summer heat wave had every AC unit in the city running at full capacity.

He narrowed his eyes. Every unit except the one on the building across the street. On that roof, a lone maintenance worker in blue coveralls crouched beside the bulky air conditioner with his toolbox open beside him.

Conner watched the man toil in the oppressive August heat. Something hadn’t felt right all day. Despite the relative seclusion of his thirty-ninth-floor office, Conner couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched.

This is pretty good. It’s not perfect. It gets me interested right away, and give me the man’s name, where he lives, where he works, and builds tension.

But there’s still not much action. We don’t see Conner do much. But does he have to? I still want to read more, so I’m caught.

The Dialogue In VANISH

The first time people talk to each other, Tom shows he knows what he’s doing:

By the time he got to the office, he had been in full paranoia. His neck and shoulders were tense. He stopped at his secretary’s desk. “Nancy, do you notice anything strange about me today? People have been staring at me all morning.”

Nancy just curled an eyebrow. “You mean other than the horns sticking out of your head?”

“Very funny.”

Nancy loved her lawyer jokes.

This got me. I immediately trust that Tom can write witty, realistic dialogue that will carry me through the rest of the book.

Vanish by Tom Pawlik

VANISH’s Writing Style

Tom used a certain three little characters here and there in the first chapter—and this surprised me. What were they? The “ellipse”, or three periods. And not just in dialogue, but in the narrative.

This surprised me because I started out writing this way, and was told by a published author that they were surprised I did that. I assumed from his surprise that you couldn’t do it, so I took them out of my text.

But there they are, in a published novel. And you know what? They work. Why? Because I’m inside Conner’s head, and so if his thinking pauses, the text should pause, and there is no better punctuation to communicate this to the reader. Here’s a sample:

The maintenance guy was still there, crouched down, working on the AC unit.

Conner rubbed the tension out of his neck and watched for a few minutes. His gaze drifted down to the street, and when he looked up again, the repairman was standing. Toolbox in hand. Facing him.

Conner blinked. Facing him?

He jerked back in his chair. The guy was watching him!

He squinted and leaned closer. He had a hard time focusing but . . .

This guy . . . had no face!

Perfect! A guy who is “staring” at Conner that has no face! He uses the ellipse sparingly, but for excellent effect. I just might put a few back into my novel…

Spiritual Content

To discern this, I read the reviews on Amazon, and from them it’s pretty clear that both VANISH and VALLEY OF THE SHADOW are pretty intense in their depictions of the spiritual realm. Enough to scare Jesus into someone, I follow!

One of the greatest compliments people paid to Tom was that the book was ORIGINAL. Yes, not some cliche’d reworking. So that gives it a big thumb’s up from me.

An interesting note is that EVERY single review was either four or five stars—except one three star review by a non-Christian man that “[Doesn’t] care … to read [a] Christianity themed or inspired work”. The man hadn’t even read the book.

He was just complaining that the book was being put forward by Amazon “secretly” with its Christian message. But Amazon’s review made it clear that the book was an “Inspirational Suspense”. Ah well, you can’t please everyone.

My Verdict

If you’re looking for an excellent supernatural thriller, these books are for you! Obviously this is written more for adults, but I would guess that mature teens would enjoy this as well. Again, I haven’t read the entire book, so parental discretion is advised.

CSFF Blog Tour

Here’s a list of the other tour members:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
    Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Margaret
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Donita K. Paul
Epic Rat
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
JOIN THE BATTLE!
Keep informed about the latest news and events for The Merlin Spiral and the upcoming Pendragon Spiral!

8 thoughts on “Tom Pawlik’s VANISH and VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

  • I don’t remember the exact website, but I did a Google search for warning sign generators and found a website that allowed me to make the spoiler sign. I had to do a bit of touching up in MS Paint, but it was worth it.

  • Great comments Robert. I like the way you analyze the book’s style and grab from it for your own writing (which looks intriguing btw). Amazing how editors & experts can contradict themselves. I guess the more we grow as writers, the more we get a feel for what works. (Hopefully!)
    Btw, I am a part of the CSFF blogtour. Somehow my name didn’t get on the list.

    Keep up the good work.
    Janey – http://www.JaneyDeMeo.com & http://www.orphansfirst.org

  • Robert,

    Thank you very much for participating in the tour and for your insightful commentary. Now, however, I’m concerned as you will probably find ellipses used quite liberally throughout the book! Thanks again!

    Tom

  • Nice review, Robert. I’m with you on the ellipse issue. When I write dialogue, I “hear” it inside my head, and those pauses are an important part of the rhythm of speech. A pause is also communication, and a character’s hesitation can speak volumes.

  • Steven,

    I’ll send you an email with the details of joining the tour. It’s incredibly easy, and lots of fun. As you can see from the comments, it brings a lot of people to your blog, and its great to go visiting everyone else’s, too.

    Brandon,

    I agree, and I’m just glad to see that its not verboten in the narrative like I thought. |-|

    Janey,

    I guess the most important issue is what does one’s own editor say. (Not that I have one right now!) At least these things are negotiable.

    Welcome to the tour!

    Tom,

    Nice to see you perusing the blog tour—not all of the featured authors take the time to do that. You’ve got a great set of novels, and I’m saving up my lunch money to buy VANISH right now.

    Fred,

    The concept of “hearing” it really is important. For my own work, I read it aloud to my family, and I am always amazed at how many things my tongue trips over that needs fixing.

    For instance, just yesterday I wrote a sentence with three “D” sounds right in a row, and it sounded awful. I never would have caught it if I hadn’t spoken it.

    And the ellipses are just part of that set of clues we can give the reader as to how we intend it to be read… the rhythms as you so appropriately call it.

    EVERYONE, thanks for stopping by!

    :wave:

Comments are closed.