The Land of Look Behind is the debut novel from author Aaron Blaylock. It tells the story of Gideon Goodwin. He pines for Jamaica, where he spent two years on mission, as he clerks a gas station in Apache Junction, Arizona. Just before he and his best friend, Todd, take a trip to the island he starts to unravel a mystery he discovers in an old journal. While we join Gideon on his modern day adventure we also join Ben Jarvis, a British soldier and writer of the journal, on his adventure in the 1700s. Jarvis was in Jamaica in the time of pirates and runaway slaves. We follow his path as he figures out what he’s fighting for. It’s an adventure story, in the vein of The Goonies or Raiders of the Lost Ark, that makes great use of its locale and the dual story mechanic.
Characters - .5/1 - The characters in The Land of Look Behind, for the most part, are the cliched characters you’d expect in an adventure story. There is the good-natured main character that is searching for something grander than what he finds in his current life. There are the goofy, lovable sidekicks. There is the strong but pretty female quasi-love interest. There is the maniacal villain. Even though these are common character tropes, they are done well. They don’t have particularly strong arcs, but there isn’t anything in there that detracts from the overall story.
Story - .5/1 - The Land of Look Behind takes the typical macguffin based adventure story and does it well. This book really shines in the lack of convolution. There isn’t anything that distracts from the core story. There is never a point when you’re reading that you think, “Why is this in here?” There are a couple of interesting twists and reveals that really pay-off in addition to the solid story. It does drag a little early on, but it really comes around and finishes off really strong.
Writing - 1/1 - The actual writing is great. The book is easy to read. It’s fun. There are jokes that land which is hard to do when you’re writing something that is supposed to be read and not seen or heard. The only drawback is the Jamaican language. It is necessary for the story, so that is the reason I didn’t knock any points for it. It is a little hard to read, but I also understand that that could be a personal problem.
Impact - .5/1 - There isn’t anything existential about The Land of Look of Look Behind. The author doesn’t tackle any grand social issues. That is okay though. It does make you feel. There are parts that make your heart pound and ache. There is a sense of urgency as the adventure progresses. You aren’t going to use this book as a study of the deepest parts of human behavior, but you can use it for the study of how to write a solid adventure story.
Bonus - 1/1 - There are two things that jump out to me about this book that are unique to it. First, is that it is a love letter to the island of Jamaica. Jamaica isn’t just the setting, it’s a character, and perhaps the best written one. When you’re done, you feel like you’ve treked through its jungles and walked on its dirt roads. It’s as integral to the story as the macguffin. I have never been particularly interested in visiting Jamaica, but after reading Mr. Blaylock’s book; I want to go. The other interesting note is the use of dual storytelling. The chapters alternate between a modern tale and a tale set in the 1700s. It’s a great device that really helps push the story forward through a slightly sluggish start.
Total - 3.5/4 - The Land of Look Behind is a great, fun debut novel from author Aaron Blaylock. It is a slow build of an adventure story that packs in the action with a touch of the supernatural. It overcomes some of the cliched storylines and characters with great writing and a great resolution. It’s reveals and twist are gratifying in the best way. The novel is out now, and I suggest you pick it up and give it a read!
In the spirit of transparency, I have to let you know that the author of The Land of Look Behind, Aaron Blaylock, is my brother in law. I tried to be as objective as possible while reviewing this book. I was really nervous to review this book, because if it was terrible; I would have to be honest. But fortunately for me, and hopefully you, the book doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s awesome. Go read it.
The Land of Look Behind Review
Reviewed/Written By: Zane Simon
Reviews are based on four categories.(Characters, Story, Writing, Impact, Bonus) Whatever’s being reviewed can earn zero points, a half point, or a full point in each category. There is also a bonus category which scores points for things that don’t fit into other categories.
So, the absolute best something can score is a 5 out of 4. I like the idea of the absolute best things having a notch above the other great things.