To Converge and Disconnect is a very short debut novella from Eric Ballein. Set in a small town outside Las Vegas, it primarily occurs on a single day. The main character is a young Sherriff’s deputy named Royal Fields. He’s feckless, immature, and not especially likable. Despite being hungover from his every-night poker game, he tries to make the best of the day’s difficult assignment.
What he’s called on to do is help at the scene of a horrific automobile accident. Ballein has plenty of opportunity to create an emotionally charged scene. And yet, he takes the same approach as Fields, holding himself and his readers at arms length.
We also meet Fields’ boss, Sheriff Sterling. He’s a tough old bird, whose reaction to the scene is incongruous. He’s also a kind of father figure to Fields, but only in the sense of pushing him to toughen up. Sheriff Sterling was interesting in his contradictions, but sadly, his character and story line were underdeveloped.
There are several other characters, including people involved in the accident. Ballein offers us a long-distance, hands-off view of them. I wanted to know and care about the characters, since it’s their accident that’s central to the story. And yet, the author backed off and switched gears before I could sink into their lives.
I hope Ballein keeps writing and publishing, because there are nuggets of promise here. However, there was a lot more disconnection than convergence in this novella. The writing axiom, “show don’t tell” missed its mark. And I found the author’s efforts to incorporate religious and philosophical thought to be clunky at best.
Ballein could have delved more deeply into the concepts of death by accident and by choice. I wanted him to explore how the people left behind felt. Interestingly, on the day I finished this book I’d also read an article about the three factors present in every suicide. I found none of these factors present in the story, even though they could have been. Unfortunately, Ballein didn’t fish under the surface enough to show me those details.
I sensed Ballein’s desire to create conflict between the Sheriff and Fields. He nudges around at it. But ultimately it’s just a tease that’s never fully exposed. And that’s essentially how I felt about this book. The writing has plenty of possibility, but it’s still a diamond in the rough rather than a fully formed gem.
Many thanks to the author for giving me a copy of the book in exchange for this honest review.