Story ideas are a dime a dozen. Sharing those ideas with the world in a manner of which they could all enjoy takes a lot of talent and a fair amount of luck. Author James L. Meredith has given us a great idea and spun it into a fantastic story with Guardian: Into The Light Of Day.
Published in 2021, Meredith’s thoughtful superhero novel takes the reader on a deep, philosophical journey. He gives us a hero who seems to be both familiar and brand new to us at the same time. The story evokes the glory days of some of our favorite classic superheroes, but does so without insulting the reader with a money grabbing nostalgia blitz, or directly ripping off another property.
In a crowded genre such as science fiction, that is a fine line to walk and Meredith toes it very well.
With that being said, this is Meredith’s first novel. Naturally it will not be without its flaws. Let’s dive into this review and go over the good, the bad, and the ugly of Guardian: Into The Light Of Day.
With the exception of the prologue (which I will get to later) Meredith sets the scenery of the story up beautifully. He creates beautiful landscapes that are impossible not to envision. Character description is usually an oversight for many authors, but the characters in Guardian are described so vividly that upon reading about them you can see the scene playing out in your head. That is a tough task for a writer to achieve and Meredith rises to the occasion and gives the reader great visuals.
The protagonist, known mostly throughout the story as “Elizabeth/Guardian” is a throwback to superheroes that would seem familiar to the reader, while retaining their own identity. Earth is her sector to protect which might make you think of The Green Lantern. The difference is that Guardian protects earth voluntarily and by her own free will. The Lanterns are assigned their sectors and report to an intergalactic law enforcement agency.
As an alien creature who assimilates herself into the human race, the biggest comparison the reader will draw with this novel is to Superman. The similarities are there, but so are the differences.
Superman was created in a different time. Patriotism was still cool. Americans were proud, the country was a beacon of hope to the world and Superman was the personification of that hope. Everyone loved him, everyone wanted to be him and he had very few personal issues as a result.
Guardian’s identity is revealed in an era where the world is in an era of disarray. There isn’t much hope to go around and she rises above the pessimism that is plaguing society and strives to be a beacon of hope shining through a very dark time in history. Everyone loves Superman. The people are divided on Guardian.
For every person that loves her, two people seem to be trying to take her down. This is where Meredith does a great job in differentiating his character from the superheroes that came before her. Properties developed before Guardian were created in the golden and silver ages of comic books.
This means that the court of public opinion was not much worth writing about for the creators of these stories. Social media didn’t exist, and basic journalism wasn’t a threat. Yellow journalism was usually called out, and regarded as such. There was no need for Stan Lee or Joe Shuster to depict these entities as villains. The same goes for politicians. Of course, there were corrupt politicians back then. Corrupt politicians have been a fixture in America since Boss Tweed. However, politics was not nearly as dirty of a game as it is today and up until The X-Men, there was no need to address the seedy dealings in our Nation’s Capital.
The Cards Are Stacked Against Her
Today’s society puts Guardian at a distinct disadvantage. She is met with a press that prioritizes falsified sexual scandals about her over the good deeds she accomplishes. Society is divided on her and she goes through a lot of the novel with very little public support. Politicians want to use her exploits for their own gain and use ruthless tactics to achieve their goals.
I commend Mr. Meredith for inserting a Superhero into a realistic depiction of today’s society and not taking the easy way out. The easy way out would have been to write Guardian as a misanthrope who is disenfranchised and has given up on their goals after 800 years of trying. Meredith stays loyal to his creation and throughout the book makes her shine brighter and dig deeper for optimism as the world around her grows darker.
She is put to the test, and stays true to her cause.
The Philosophical Quandaries Are Meaningful
There are a lot of Philosophical questions that arise from Guardian. The main plot of the novel centers around debris from an asteroid reining down on earth and creating Meta-Humans in the process. This raises questions about how society would respond to such an event.
- Is this a disease, or evolution?
- Should a cure be mandatory? What if somebody doesn’t want to be cured?
- Should Meta-Humans be regulated?
- Should they to be considered an automatic threat?
- Should the government force them to register as Meta-Humans?
These are all very poignant talking points for societal debate that don’t have a right, or wrong answer yet and the book has the uncanny ability to let the reader wonder for themselves. This may sound like the plot of an X-Men movie or story arc, but the difference between the two would be that there were active mutant agitators in those stories. In this story, Meta-Humans are an entirely new situation to deal with.
As I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, there isn’t many things for me to say that are bad about it. There were some issues that I would like to see Mr. Meredith work through on his next novel though.
My first qualm is with the prologue. Guardian arrives, assumes the body of a recently deceased mother and takes to human nature by nurturing an infant. Over the objections of her mother, she decides to remain on Earth as our protector. That’s it. Then we have an 800 year time jump and she’s a doctor in Kenya.
The reader could have benefitted from a couple of pages, or at least a summation of what she went through for that span of time. The time jump is huge and it leaves the reader with a lot of questions. She mentions being the Queen of Egypt, The Queen of England, and a Russian politician. It would have been interesting to have some of those events covered as she navigated her way through the world.
Uneven Character Descriptions
J.L. Meredith does a fantastic job in describing his creations. As he fine tunes his craft, I would hope for him to use more consistency. He will beautifully describe a character that is in the novel for less than a chapter. After doing that, he will fail to give us the President’s name until late in the book.
Tense segments like when she saves a space station from the asteroid at the beginning of the novel are diminished with non descript, nameless characters such as “Mission Director” and “Cosmonaut”.
There Is Too Much Dialogue And “Girl Talk”
As descript a writer as Meredith is, there are parts of the book that are too dialogue heavy. He should have shown more confidence in his ability to effectively narrate and relied less on dialogue. The book became too talkative for its own good at some points.
I found the girl talk to be annoying at times. Pages were consumed by chatter between Guardian and her colleague, Jennifer, that added little to the story. There were pages dedicated to Guardian preparing for a date that were akin to a high school girl getting ready for prom.
The dialogue, especially during the romance scenes also came off as forced and clunky at times.
The Final Antagonist Was Rushed In
Without spoiling the book, I will just say that in the last act there is a final antagonist. The sequence was well written, well executed and action packed. The problem is that this plot point came from the middle of nowhere. There were no allusions to this sequence of events happening, there was no real back story. The reader was here at one point, and then violently shoved into another scenario at the next point.
The ugly parts of this novel have nothing to do with J.L. Meredith’s writing, or the story itself. Meredith did a great job weaving this tale and I hope to see a lot more from him.
My problem is with the editing. The story was edited by Clark Chamberlain and Catherine Rupke. I have to say that their process left a lot to be desired.
The writer’s job is to tell the story and commit their ideas to paper. The editor’s job is to put it all together and translate it into something that makes sense for the reader.
There are scenes that were well-written but did nothing to advance the story. I’ve covered part of this with the excessive girl talk. There were also snippets, such as Guardian taking a homeless man out to lunch and finding him shelter before moving along. If that sequence never made it into the book, there would have been no ramifications on the plot whatsoever.
Storytelling like that serve T.V. shows and comic books well. In a novel, it takes the reader out of their rhythm.
The pacing was also rapid and jarring with no smooth transitions. The book moved the characters and sequences of events around like a hungry shark. i found myself having to go back and reread certain sections of the novel to keep track.
Writers make typos. I should know, I make a lot of them. Typos and mistakes are the reason as to why I have an editor. The editors in Guardian did not catch nearly as many typos as they should have before this book went to print. They did a disservice to Meredith by keeping the red pen in their pockets.
One glaring mistake that I feel the need to point out is an action sequence in which Guardian confronts three Nazi skinheads and refers to them as “Himmler, (Goebbels) and Hoss”. It is a smart quip that would normally land well. Only in the print, Goebbels is spelled out as “Gobbles”. Whether that was a genuine mistake on Meredith’s part or auto-correct rearing its ugly head, typos like that the reader out of the moment and the editors should have caught that.
There was very little to criticize in the debut for J.L. Meredith. In reading Guardian: Into The Light Of Day, I feel like I am witnessing the beginning of a great career for a gifted storyteller. I want to see more of this character and I hope Mr. Meredith isn’t finished with her. I would like to see this particular story retooled and possibly rereleased as a series of novellas. Breaking it up in that fashion might help with the pacing that bothered me. I am happy to have read this book and I highly recommend it to any reader looking for a great story and a poignant piece of social commentary.
Guardian: Into Light Of Day is available through all major booksellers and on Amazon. If you are more interested in JL Meredith as a writer, you can check out his web page here or subscribe to his newsletter.
Thank you for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles. For more great content and insightful conversation, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.
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