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Reviews of 'The Middle of Nowhere'

The Middle of Nowhere

by Paul B. Thompson
Crossroads, Volume 5


Reviews of 'The Middle of Nowhere'

Here are the visitor reviews we have of The Middle of Nowhere. For more information about this title, please visit the item detail page.


Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

This was a great book. You have a mismatched group of adventurers, with some questionable morals and goals and who are so desperate they willingly get hired on by a group of farmers to defend their village. Their pay? Food and lodging. Not what a typical mercenary would be aiming for!

Even though the plot seems mundane, it's well told and entertaining. A mix of characters, from an Ergothian sailor and a dishonored knight, to a minotaur and a kender, along with a few Kagonesti elves for the fun of it, and you have one heck of a band of unlikely heroes. These people come together, learn to fight and care about one another and the poor farmers they're protecting, and save a village called Nowhere.

I'm still really baffled and confused about the "Traveler" wizard Ezu. He appears mysteriously, has interesting tricks up his sleeves for every situation he finds himself in, and then vanishes just as mysteriously at the end. Is he a god? A dragon in human form? Or just an extremely powerful, but slightly senile, wizard? Regardless, his powers prove to be vital to the success of the mission.

The farmers were really nothing to write home about. They're typical farmers, simple thoughts and basic goals. The shining glory of the entire book is the party of heroes. Each one finds immortality by the end and a form of salvation for their souls. No longer are they the lost, outcast, and dishonored. They are true heroes, from the Kagonesti bounty hunter to the minotaur poet.

I really enjoyed Sir Howland, the knightly character who leads the band. I was surprised to see how far he came by the end of the book, regaining honor and proving himself to everyone around him, but even more to himself. Carver, the kender, was also very well done... he was not a typical Tasslehoff clone, and I found him to be a great addition. He lacks the stupidity that many authors develop in kender characters and seemed more realistic.

While the plotline is pretty standard, I think the shining glory of this book is the characters. They were masterfully done. A definite suggestion on a book to read in this series.

Review made August 15th, 2003.


Reviewer: Chad Anthony

Rating: Stars

This books begins, continues in, and ends exactly where the title says. Nowhere. A motley band is formed by farmers from a town on no known map to rescue inprisoned farmers from a mine on the same map. The overall plotline, heavy action and character development meet recent Dragonlance standards. But the setting itself is as close to Krynn as it is to Greyhawk or any other fantasy setting. The Middle of Nowhere contains elements and quirks which contradict completely with standard Krynnish culture. For instance, a mercenary town of elves, humans and dwarfs living side by side in relative peace is, ironically, found nowhere on Krynn but four days walk from Nowhere. A rushed ending leaves the reader looking for not just more, too much more. There are too many loose ends which tie themselves in a knot of bewilderment as you close the back cover. Overall, not a bad read for fantasy fans, but the seasoned Dragonlance reader will pick up on the blatant tangents from Krynnish lore. Having these picking on your brain until you finish the book is as good a motivator as the intriguing story of a small village breaking the siege of a tyrant force.


Reviewer: Darlaten

Rating: Stars

Synopsis of Story (Minor Spoilers Ahead)

In a peaceful back wood lies the village of Nowhere whose citizens are comprised of farmers eking out a humble existence, quite literally, in The Middle of Nowhere. However, their tranquility and way of life is shattered by the arrival of Lord Rakell. Rakell needs able-bodied men to toil and work in a mine. As such, he takes twenty of the villagers away and will return in another 30 days to gather twenty more villagers. The villagers offer little resistance due to the overwhelming bandit forces comprised of humans and ogres.

However, one small group of villagers are determined not to let this happen. Malek, Caeta, Wilf and Nils set out to the town of Robann to seek out warriors who will come to the aid of their defenceless village.

Thus enters a Minotaur poet named Khorr of the Thickhorn Clan; a Saifhumi female sailor from named Raika; a Kender treasure hunter by the name of Carver Reedwhistle; a half Human/Ogre by the name of Hume nar Fanac; and two Kagonesti elves—Robien the Tireless and Amergin. The leader of this group is a "Knight" by the name of General Howland uth Ungen. The last character to join in the villages defence is Ezu, the Traveler.

The rest of the book explores the heroes' attempts at saving the village of Nowhere. For fear of spoiling the book, I can't summarize the story further; however, I can say that every reader will like what follows: fast paced battles; mystery and intrigue about the true nature of these would-be heroes; humorous parts; tragedy; and an ending that one does not expect.

What I liked about this book?

1) Paul B. Thompson does not use typical heroes in his story. His characters are selfish, deceitful, untrustworthy, single-minded, and dishonest. Some characters have a dishonourable past while others do not want to be warriors. This makes for a different group of characters. For this reason alone, this book is a must-buy.

2) This book illustrates the vastness of the world of Dragonlance, e.g., the introduction of the glassmasters of Oe, a detailed account into the politics of the town of Robann, the introduction of the land of Saifum, and the inclusion of an old legend from the plains people; namely, The Wanderer. This story opens up the world of Dragonlance. I hope, in the near future, we will see the land of Oe illustrated in another book.

3) The village of Nowhere itself is nicely developed and detailed. Instead of a typical village, Paul B. Thompson creates a unique environment for the village. He includes many historical points, e.g., the Ancestor Stone, The Elder, which gives the sense that this village has existed for a very long time. His writings also clearly articulate what life as a farmer is like for the villagers.

4) The style of writing in this book is elaborate yet at the same time easy to understand. Paul B. Thompson provides many interesting quotes and phrases, e.g., "If you keep faith with your soldiers today and tomorrow, than yesterday means nothing" (p. 126). Many times, I found myself thinking hard about what I have read. This, in my opinion, is the mark of a strong book and author.

What I did not like about this book

1) While its possible to figure out the general location of the village of Nowhere—its not explicitly stated anywhere in the book. I would also have liked to see the inclusion of a map of Nowhere.

2) There are grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and missing words in the first ten or so chapters. This is not a criticism of the author; rather, it reflects the quality of the editing department at Wizards of the Coast.

3) The picture of Khorr on the back cover does not depict, in my opinion, what a Minotaur should look like. It looks like a male human with horns stuck on his head. This is not a reflection on the author but rather on the artwork for this book. It is not a convincing picture. Having said that, I do like the front cover of this book.

4) Carver Reedwhistle is the only character I had a hard time believing in. He didn't come across as a Kender—afflicted or otherwise. He comes across as a human. Perhaps this was done in keeping with the notion of using a different style of hero for this story. In the case of Carver, it doesn't work well.

5) My last criticism concerns the death of the one of the main characters. This character never received a chance to influence the story. In my opinion, the death came to quickly, and as such, the reader was left wondering why this character was even included in the first place.

Conclusion

The Middle of Nowhere, which is part of the Crossroads Series of books, is the first solo novel of Paul B Thompson in Dragonlance. He should be commended for doing an excellent job. With a strong plotline, a unique group of characters, and a strong writing style, this book is a solid, and much-needed, addition to the stories of the fifth age. It was well worth the wait.


Reviewer: Matt

Rating: Stars

The Middle of Nowhere is the most recent novel from famed Dragonlance author Paul Thompson. While the story moves along fairly well, it is by no means Thompson's best work. Readers looking for a pretty good Dragonlance story will find it in Nowhere, but those looking for a tale to keep them on the edge of their seat should look elsewhere.

Nowhere is basically a Dragonlance version of the Seven Samurai, a 1954 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa (and remade as the famous western, The Magnificent Seven, in 1960). Samurai is set in 16th century Japan, where a peasant community hires seven mercenaries to defend it against marauding bandits. When the samurai arrive on the scene, a series of battles between the hastily-trained peasants and the bandits begins. Add in the requisite elves, minotaur, ogres, kender and a bit of magic, and you have the basic plot of Nowhere.

While that plotline makes for a successful (if formulaic) tale, the story has a number of inconsistencies in terms of Dragonlance continuity and with the lack of connection that the reader feels with the characters.

The village of Nowhere is situated somewhere in the northwestern buttes of the Khalkist mountains, which places it near the Estwilde. The book opens with the bandit leader, Lord Rakell, marching his bandits into Nowhere and making off with a third of the town's adults, and promising to return in thirty days for another group to work in his mines. The following day, a council is convened and four villagers are sent forth to a town called Robann, a week's journey away, to recruit mercenaries. The town is ruled by warring gangs, and is filled with the dregs of Ansalon.

In Robann, the villagers manage to recruit six of the seven soldiers that will defend the village: an exiled minotaur poet, a sailor from Saifhum, a Kagonesti mercenary, a kender, a drunken ex-Knight of Solamnia, and a thane from neighboring Khur. They pick up another Kagonesti, a bounty hunter, and a strange 'traveler' on the return trip to Nowhere. Once they return to the village, the mercenaries begin training the villagers and preparing the village's defense for the inevitable attacks that will be launched by Rakell when his bandits return.

One of the major problems I had with Nowhere is that the plot has been used so many times in various incarnations that it wasn't very interesting. A helpless village is victimized by powerful outlaws. A group of rag-tag heroes comes to their aid, trains the villagers in record time, builds defenses for the town, and through a bit of luck, skill and mistakes by the bandits, manages to beat insurmountable odds and save the village. While that's a fine story, Nowhere doesn't deviate much from the formula, except that the story doesn't end at the climax where the battle is won—the novel continues for another 35 pages where the surviving mercenaries do a little exploration and wrap up all the loose ends that weren't addressed in the main part of the novel.

The second issue I had with the novel was the background and motivation of the mercenaries to join the cause in the first place. As Raika, the sailor from Saifhum put it, "Sell my life for three squares and a straw bed? For a good fight? Why not?" Or, more importantly, why? Despite the fact that each of their saviors are either down on their luck or have become indebted to the four villagers sent to recruit them one way or another, it doesn't seem believable that they would volunteer for a mission that is almost certainly suicide for little or no pay, to say nothing of the dumb luck the villagers had just being in the right place at the right time.

Thirdly, the issue of character development and the reader's connection to the characters needs to be addressed. Not all of the seven mercenaries that set off for Nowhere made it through to the end of the novel. While the deaths of one or more characters were important to the storyline, I never really felt connected with the characters and their deaths provoked more of an "oh, well" reaction rather than the deep sadness I've felt when reading other death scenes (the High Clerist's Tower in Dragons of Winter Night comes to mind). Furthermore, some of the characters had traits that weren't consistent with how a character in the Dragonlance world would act. For example, the kender, Carver, isn't really offended when he's accused of stealing, and doesn't have the innocence and playfulness of the traditional kender throughout the book; it seems to come and go with the mood of the particular scene he's in. The Kagonesti wild elves follow a human commander in defense of the village—likely one of the few times that elves have defended humans from other humans and followed a human commander to boot—and they also seem comfortable within the city. Little inconsistencies like these that don't seem to line up with traditional Dragonlance world are present throughout the novel.

Ultimately, though, the story holds together. Despite the inconsistencies in the world as it's presented and the formulaic plot, The Middle of Nowhere is an entertaining tale that should keep readers busy as they bury themselves in its pages. For those readers looking for a bit more sophisticated fare and a gripping storyline with well-rounded characters, you should look elsewhere.


Reviewer: Steffen Bogh

Rating: Stars

At some places I've heard that this book should have been based upon something called "The Seven Samurai," but I simple don't know anything about that. So this review is written entirely from the perspective of one reading this plotline for the first time, which means that there's no comparisons to this so called "Samurai" book or whatever it is.

This novel takes its beginning in a small village only consisting of farmers. Bandits looking for slaves for a mining facility comes by, and takes several farmers captive, promising that they will return for more farmers.

One of the captives is Laila, a young woman, which a man in the village called Malek is deeply in love with. He starts out from the village with some of his farmer friends, looking for champions to help the them defend their small village, and rescue their lost ones.

On their travel, they come across the city of mercenary city of Robann, where they gather quite a band of champions. Of those, there is a minotaur poet, a drunken soldier, a kender (of course), an elf hunted by a bounty hunter (and the bounty hunter too), a half ogre, and lastly a hardboiled warrior woman from Saifhum. They all agree to help the farmers protect their village. But for no reward at all! But in the end, they will all be rewarded...

The rest of the book goes by with the seven defenders staving off atacking bandits, who have set up camp around the village. What they do, is making barricades, digging threnches, and other stuff, to make it difficult for the bandit army...

One of the best things about this book, is that it is filled with action. I'm sure that this is one of the Dragonlance books with the most action in it. The plot isn't very complicated, and there isn't either any real plot twists in the story after my opinion. This is maybe one of the flaws about the book, but its still the action that drives the plot forward. And the action is indeed well-written.

In fact, the action and the way the defenders defend the village, is very creative thought out, and it never gets boring. There always happens something new. But some might find it a bit uninteresting to some point, but I still liked it much. And I have to say it... Ezu was a really cool kind of trickster!

Something that I didn't quite catch though, was how the mountain range with the mining facility could lie east, if Robann was to the west. It didn't really fit with my FIFTH AGE map. But maybe its just me?

One of the last great aspects of the book is the ending, which I found very touching. So all in all a worthwile DL book, which all DL fans will be satisfied with.


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