Tuesday, May 06, 2008

So So Very Bad

I've just finished reading a very poorly written book.

At first I thought it was this book, The Key to Conspiracy by Thalia Gryphon. Which was recently reviewed at Dear Author. Except that I read number one in the series, The Key to Conflict.  

I have several issues with this book.

1. The characters
2. The dialouge
3. The writing

It is a comprehensive list.  Be warned. There are spoilers ahead, although why you'd care after reading this review, I'd never know.

The characters were generally annoying.  After about halfway through the book, I really got tired of the parade of SUPER HOTT! OMG SEXXXY para-whatevers! Apparently in this world, there are no normal-looking people. 

The main character, Gillian (or Gill, the author uses a nickname to break up the flow of Gillian does... sentences instead of rewriting) is TSTL.  This is not a label I throw out lightly, but I feel it is warranted. We are endlessly told how smart, tough and skilled this woman is. We are never really shown anything.  She whines, she gets drunk in dangerous territory, and she is really confused about issues a real psychologist should understand. Like the definition of rape. 

She is repeatedly assaulted without her knowledge (she was dreaming) and did not consent to having sex with her attacker or consent to him coming and making her have dreamsex with him. She does not know who is in her dreams or what is going on. This is rape. Saying otherwise is terrifying. If you are so drunk you cannot say yes or no, it's rape. If you don't know what's going on, it's rape. Does the fact that she had orgasms negate her lack of consent? Apparently Gillian thinks so, which makes me wonder how she managed her PhD, her internships, and well, her life so far.

For a psychologist, she is very lacking in self-awareness.

"I did not survive battlefield conditions in Serbia...blah blah blah I'm not delicate or stupid!" I know someone who did, and they wouldn't be caught dead saying something like that. Also, they wouldn't be caught dead being as TSTL as she is over and over again. Because they survived Serbia and where ever else she said she'd been. I'm not going to re-check that quote, but "survive battlefield conditions"? Who says that? 

The dialogue forgot it was supposed to sound like people talking. There was a consistent lack of contractions.  People don't really speak the way they write. Perhaps vampire=super formal diction, but with all of the other issues, I'm doubtful. 

Technically, this book was in need of a rewrite. The repetition, the mixed constructions and complete lack of showing the action (remember that old rule? show, don't tell) made me feel like someone was telling me about this story that could have been really interesting. Except that I needed to stop listening to the teller, and just read the book myself before the end gets blabbed. 

This book is filled with wasted detail. So much time is spent on unnecessary information. We are told who characters are after we have met them several times, we are told boring and unnecessary information on the different types of the magically-inclined, we are even told who JRR Tolkien is, and that he wrote the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. 

Surprisingly enough, the sex scenes we the best written in the book. Even though I have no desire to read more about the exact dimensions of Gill's canal (and am so unbelievably sick of the phrase "ridged canal") Gryphon uses imagery, description and setting to show the reader the action, instead of telling us what is happening. 

This book was one big info-dump. 

This book had a lot going for it. I really liked the idea of psychologist to the undead. How many times have you read an urban fantasy and gone "Hey, that dude is totally messed up, therapy is totally necessary." I thought the flame thrower was cool. 

I only wish that Gryphon had a more aggressive editor. Apparently LKH's Darla was a line editor (?proofreader?).  I would suggest a professional editor who is willing to suggest more substantive and aggressive changes. There is a good book in there, waiting to get out. It just needs a lot of help.  If that doesn't work, Gryphon may want to switch to writing erotica. Writing sex seems to be her stronger suit.