Author: Donna Augustine
Publisher: Strong Hold Publishing
"loosing" should be "losing" (12% in)
"Battlestar Gallactica" should be "Battlestar Galactica" (chapters 6 & 8)
Well today's the eleventh of December so this must be the day I post a review of a novel beginning with 'K'!
This is book one in the "Karma" series, of course, because, why go to all the trouble of giving birth to a potential new cash cow when you can keep on milking the old? I started out thinking that I really wasn't going to like this, then I warmed to it, but nowhere near enough to want to keep reading more of the same.
The premise is rather juvenile. Twenty-seven-year-old Camilla Fontaine dies in a train wreck (a literal one) and finds she's being recruited by Harold, who is the Mr Jordan of this story. Harold thinks she's perfect for taking over the role of Karma - the celestial being which is responsible for seeing that everyone gets their just deserts. Of course there is no such thing in real life because life isn't fair. There is nothing out there keeping accounts or maintaining balances.
The problem in this story is that Camilla/Karma is a transfer - someone recruited from the newly dead, rather than being a lifelong inductee, and fate isn't kind to such recruits, particularly the Hand of Fate - the guy with whom she must work. It's so nauseatingly obvious from her completely unjustified and over-the-top hatred of him, that she will be falling in love with him before long which was frankly rather sickening to me.
I have to say that I'm not a big fan (actually I'm not a fan at all, with few exceptions) of supernatural novels where the supernatural world is exactly like ours except supernatural. That is to say, it turns me off to read a vampire novel (which I purposefully try to avoid for just this reason), where there is a royalty - with king vampire and/or queen vampire, and princes and sheriffs, etc. One of the weaknesses of the Harry Potter series for me was the Ministry of Magic and all the laws and rules and the farcical policing.
To me, that was completely nonsensical, trite and tedious, and it kept reminding me I was reading a novel, pulling me out of suspension of disbelief, but at least Rowling seemed to realize this, and made an effort to put some absurdity and humor in there to make it just about palatable. I've read too many other stories (including one last month) where this kind of thing goes on mindlessly and it's ridiculous, for example, in how the supernatural investigator comes back to the office and has to fill out paperwork. I'm like, what? What paperwork? Who is asking for this?! What possible purpose can it serve? It's stupid.
Back to the story in progress! So here, Karma - whose real name is Camilla, but who is renamed Carma (seriously?) when she's reincarnated - works in an office, lives in a beach house, drives to work in an old car. No one tells her squat, so she's completely in the dark. Even though she changes her mind about doing this job, it's because of formalities and paperwork that she can't get out of it immediately and has to work for thirty days. Since this is a series, we know for a fact that she's going to stay in the job, so this was farcical at best.
Day after day goes by with no one telling her anything. I mean people literally don't say anything to her except "Hi!" and "Bye!" She gets no training whatsoever despite being a 'transfer' who quite evidently needs it. She keeps getting told that she'll have to wait and she will know when it's her time to do anything, but she's given absolutely no clues whatsoever about what's going on, what she might expect, and what she might have to do about it. This is dumb because we're told the job of the people in the office is to correct imbalances caused when the universe forgets to maintain a balance by itself, yet it's the universe - evidently - which notifies her when it's her time to intervene. Huh?
She shares the drab office with several other such beings: the Hand of Fate (who is a complete jerk, and creepy to boot), Lady Luck, the Jinx triplets (who are really teenage brothers), a leprechaun, Murphy of Murphy's Law, Kitty, who is in charge of the black cats, and so on. None of them seem to do anything. Given that there are seven billion people on the planet, I find it hard to believe there isn't more to do - unless there are offices like this all over the country, and all over the world.
OTOH, if the universe is so good at doing this that there's is so little to do, what does it matter if one slips through the cracks here and there? What harm does it do? Again, no explanation! Why does there even need to be a balance? There's no explanation for that either. I wouldn't mind the office and the paperwork, and the rules and regulations so much if I were offered some sort of justification, or if some attempt was made to make them make some sense, but none is. This is a classic example of a really good plot idea thrown down the toilet with piss-poor execution.
Karma's first task comes in the form of a dream about a bad guy who has, through several incarnations we're told, cheated and otherwise been very naughty. Apparently neither the universe nor previous incarnations of Karma did squat about him - so why is it suddenly important now? Again, no explanation is forthcoming. The current Karma's home-grown solution is to put a wild bee's nest in his car, so that he dies from stings. How does this correct all the evil he's done over several incarnations? I have no idea, and neither does the author as far as I can see! It doesn't actually fix anything. None of the people who he screwed-over gets a thing out of this, so how is this even Karma (in the sense intended here)? There is no justice served, no balance restored.
It makes no sense either, to have a "Karma" to restore balance and to simultaneously have a "Murphy", to upset the balance. How the heck is that supposed to work? What happens if Fate and Karma are at odds? Who decides who wins?
It was at this point that I found myself thinking that I honestly didn't know how much more of this I wanted to read. Camilla agreed to join the organization because she wanted revenge - but that's the very opposite of how one is supposed to approach the concept of Karma! Someone, we're told, purposefully caused the train-wreck which killed her, so why didn't Fate step in then? There's no explanation for that, either!
Karma initially starts out, after being rein-Karma-ted trying to visit her family and fiancé, but she can't. Whenever she gets near them, she gets horrible feelings that they're going to die. They can't hear what she's saying anyway. It's like she's only partly visible in her old world. She can go to a café and order coffee, but no one sees her dump the bee's nest in the car, and she doesn't get stung even once from doing this. She's initially brought in with the promise of getting justice for the train wreck; then she's denied it, and finally she's offered it again. How does any of this roller-coaster contribute to restoring balance to the universe?
This business of karma (not Karma!) makes no sense, especially in view of how it's depicted in this novel. The Indian idea of karma is that your actions dictate your future; bad acts make for a bad person and vice-versa. Duhh! It's hardly sublime! The problem is that this is popularly taken to mean that if you do something bad, then something bad will happen to you in return, and vice-versa, but this is a very blinkered view, and it really makes no sense, especially in a western civilization where reincarnation is not considered an option. It makes even less sense if it's being forcefully controlled as this novel suggests! Around 40% into reading this, it made even less sense, as I shall discuss shortly.
Looked at from another angle, I couldn't help but wonder what was going to happen to Carma for all the bad stuff she was perpetrating here. She was a lawyer, but she was a public defender, so does this mean she has dharma and punya for helping disenfranchised individuals to have a voice and find justice, or does it mean that she's larding herself up with adharma and pap because she has helped bad people to avoid justice?!
Taken to its logical conclusion, why is it so focused on bad stuff? If the bad stuff has to be balanced out, then doesn't the good stuff also? If you do something good, then "logically" shouldn't something bad happen to balance it out?! This is the problem with religious beliefs. They don't lend themselves to rational analysis, because once you do that, they fall apart completely.
I decided I was pretty much done with this story at this point. This is where Karma - against express instructions, kills a guy who is abusing his wife, thereby preventing him from killing her. She was supposed to have got his wife's blood on his clothes, thereby implicating him so he'd be arrested, but she lost her cool, and she done him in!
Here's the first problem with that: isn't she supposed to be in charge and do what she thinks is best? This is what we were told about her. Yet when she does precisely this, the weather changes to thunder, lightning and rain?! The universe is pissed off? How? If the universe missed correcting this, then how can that same universe declare what's to be done? Why would it even care? If it knows what's to be done, how can this be considered to be a case which slipped through the cracks? None of this makes any sense.
That's not even the worst part, and the juxtaposition of the abusive husband with Karma's next actions is completely ironical at best and downright criminally insane at worst. Here we have Karma going full throttle to seek justice in the case of an abusive guy and his wife, and next she's making out with Fate, who has done nothing but abuse her from the off?
Can no one see the hypocrisy of this paradox? Admittedly Fate had not beaten her up or anything like that, but he had physically (if in minor ways) and mentally (in major ways) abused her, and she has the hots for him? I'm sorry but this is entirely the wrong message to send to female readers and that's why I am rating this book WARTY! I've seen this in too many young adult novels, and though this isn't one of those per se, it's clearly aimed at adults who are at the young end of that range.
I can't condone a book which tells women of any age that it's okay to 'put up' with domination (in the broadest sense) and outright abuse, and as if that alone isn't bad enough, that as a young woman, you should be more than willing to lay down and open your legs for abusive partners, and fall in love with them too, if they require it. It's sick, and Donna Augustine and her publisher should be ashamed of themselves for purveying inappropriate and sick trash like this.