By Ekta R. Garg
May 12, 2022
Storm Rising by Chris Hauty
Release date: May 3, 2022
Genre: Political thriller
I loved the plot of this book. Chris Hauty does a fantastic job of balancing the appeal of a good old-fashioned spy story with a plot very much of our times. With political changes and the climate becoming more polarized, it’s no surprise that authors who write realistic books find themselves drawn to stories involving white supremacy and other topics of our current times.
Generally speaking, I’ve also felt in the last several years that Simon and Schuster books were some of the best plotted and best edited books across the board. There have been a few clunkers, sure, but it’s a big company. They can’t possibly hit a home run on every single book they release.
Here, too, in terms of big-picture development, I have absolutely no complaints. Hayley Chill is compelling as a main character. She holds everyone in her life, including us as the readers, at arm’s length. Some people do that and end up pushing people away; Hayley does it, and it just intrigues the people in her life—and, by turns, us—even more. It draws us closer, making us want to get to know her better.
Sometimes writers can create strong characters but put them in stories that fail to measure up to them. That’s not the case here. Hayley’s circumstances—the ones by choice and also those by chance—are just as compelling as she is. The white supremacy movement is engaging enough on its own, but too often writers could devolve into making their characters monsters or their plots unrealistic. Chris Hauty has no problem offering readers a great book that has strong roots in the research he did for it.
I did have a few minor objections to some to the smaller things in the book, though, and in a weird way this is a compliment to Hauty’s work. The overarching themes and development of the novel were so well done that part of me was able to let go and just enjoy it. The other part of me—the editor’s brain that’s constantly ticking away—homed in on the micro details.
As an editor, I love working on a book that makes me focus on the micro details. Why? Because it means the writer has done their work on the big things. I don’t have to worry about whether the character undergoes meaningful change or whether the conflict is tight enough, big enough, in proportion to what the protagonist has endured through the story. I don’t have to think about making sure readers feel sad when they’re supposed to and happy when they’re supposed to. I can get into the weeds of a story or book and drill into the mechanics of it all.
The story and plot in Storm Rising were compelling, but at times I felt like there was a little too much information or info dumping going on. One of the challenges of writing a series is thinking about those readers who might meet the protagonist on the third or fourth or eighth book in. Readers who have started with the first book and loved it will stick around for subsequent volumes. However, writers also have to consider that as times and marketing campaigns change, there will be those adventurous readers out there who don’t mind starting something when the story has already been set in motion.
For those readers, authors have to offer enough background about the protagonist and their state in life so they can just pick up with the story as it starts. It’s an incredibly hard balance to strike for authors because you don’t want to bore your dedicated readers. You don’t want them to get impatient with the story and think, “Get on with it already.”
In Storm Rising, Chris Hauty tended to give a little too much back story in places where it felt forced. This was especially apparent in conversations that protagonist Hayley Chill had with her best friend/biggest rival April Wu. Hayley and April trained in the same program at the same time and always pushed one another during their training to do their very best. It’s one of the main reasons the women are so incredibly effective at their jobs.
At times in this book, however, as Hayley and April met and filled one another in on their current assignments, it seemed like their dialogue was meant more as mini synopses of the adventures from the first two books in the series. Great for readers who are meeting Hayley and April for the first time; a little tedious for those of us who watched the women undergo everything the first time around. I’m sure some of these were hard decisions to make for the editing team and in those cases where an excess of information was provided the choice was to err on the side of caution. I just wish some of those instances were handled a little differently.
It’s a hard thing, writing a book. (Trust me, I’m working on my newest one now after getting published last year.) In every paragraph, on every page, writers are constantly asking themselves how much they need to trust the reader and how much they need to explain. Authors make those choices not knowing, sometimes, if they’ve made the right ones.
As an Editor, I would say Chris Hauty could have trusted his readers a little more or chosen to share Hayley’s back story in ways other than what appeared in the book. For most readers, though, they may like or even appreciate the extra material. And how could they not, when it’s so easy to appreciate the rest of the novel as is?