N0S4A2 - Not for me, thanks

NOS4R2 - Joe Hill

Brainycat's 5 "B"s:
blood: 3
boobs: 2
bombs: 2
bondage: 2
blasphemy: 3
Stars: 2.5
Bechdel Test: FAIL
Deggan's Rule: FAIL
Gay Bechdel Test: FAIL

Please note: I don't review to provide synopses, I review to share a purely visceral reaction to books and perhaps answer some of the questions I ask when I'm contemplating investing time and money into a book.

I DNF'd at 58%. The last third of what I read I was literally going chapter by chapter, looking for a reason to keep going. I never got a specific reason to stop the book - Instead, I got to a point where I realized if I'm trying this hard to find something engaging I'm clearly not having much fun. I started the book with really high hopes from all the great reviews I've seen, I really liked the premise and eventually I developed a bit of a crush on the main character Vic McQueen. Overall, though, the characters felt like they hardly have any interiority - they existed to effect each other, but did very little to affect themselves. The only character who is making things happen is the Bad Guy. It's like a pool table - there's only one cue ball, the rest of the balls just react to what it does.

This book is way too wordy. With some proper editing, this could've been cut down to a shortish novel sized book and I'dve finished it and given it more stars. But it wasn't. It's not quite as bad as Robert Jordan, but very nearly. One example that had me WTFing out loud was the story of a night time security guard (think "red shirt") at a hospital. The salient part of the plot is that Bad Guy is going to make a move from point A to point B through the hospital. The part we get to read about is a whole backstory on the nighttime security guard, the intimate details of the sexual relations he has with one of the nurses, and his troubled relationship with his uncle and supervisor. I don't need to know all this, and if the author just wanted to drop in some prurient sex he could've done us the favor of at least writing explicit sex scenes. The whole book is full of pages of unnecessary backstory and color that are all well crafted, but so irrelevant they each detract from my enjoyment of the book.

But so many opportunities to provide meaningful and subtle dimension to the characters were skipped. The most glaring example that comes to mind is Vic's tattoos - she's got a number of them, and even did a sleeve after coming out of rehab. What images did she choose? Where did she put them? Who did the tats? At one point, we find out she has a picture of a V6 over her heart. Sure thing dear author, don't strain yourself too hard with that one ok? Otherwise, there's no mention of them other than to illustrate that she could be considered a harlot by people who don't know any better.

While there's way too much pontificating about irrelevant people and places, the foreshadowing is as blatant as young kids' lies. You can see it happening - somebody does something with something, and it's like it's lit up under a spotlight: "This Thing Will Be Important To The Plot Later". Yawn. Please, challenge me - surprise me and make me think. If I wanted to vegetate, I'd watch TV. "The Walking Dead" also uses too many words to scarcely advance it's plot, so an author needs to give me a better reason to read their book instead of crushing all over Danai Gurira. Related to this, we find out that the "find my iPhone" app can tell you when the device in a magical alternate reality - and even draw a map of the whole territory. Seriously? What is the name of the trope where the Magic Amulet solves all the problems and advances the plot through all the gooey Character Development and straight into Final Battle?

A major part of our heroine's makeup is her alcoholism. This is a topic near and dear to me as I have 6yrs+ sober. Her addiction was handled as a plot complication but I never got to know about her struggle and how it evolved her. Also, just out of a 30 day rehab and she's "working on her 8th step". I'm not an expert on 12 step programs; my sobriety takes a different path but I know from years of exposure that it takes many months of sobriety before someone is ready to do that work. This was yet another example of the author using traits without showing the proper research. To be fair to him, though, I see this all too often in books, tv and movies - recovery isn't portrayed well by people who haven't been through it. I looked up the author to see if I could find anything regarding his own experience with addictions and I discovered this he's the son of Stephen King. This explains everything; it seems clear to me that he learned how to write best sellers from his dad, and also picked up some of his dad's bad habits. He no doubt watched his father go into recovery and learned the lingo that way.

This is a very pretty book, a very easy to digest book, but it just doesn't have any impact. I'm writing this conclusion about a week after I gave up on it and I'm struggling to remember anybody interesting except Vic McQueen, who got shortchanged by the lack of character development. It's not particularly horrific, it's not particularly interesting and all but one of the characters aren't memorable. It is well written with a superior command of the language, but if I were the editor I would have sent it back for a couple more revisions. Overall, it feels like way too many pages of phoned-in filler.


EDIT: And once I post it, I suddenly remember who the Bad Guy reminded me of: His look and mannerisms are a total ripoff from Vincent Cassell's character in Sheitan.