**spoiler alert** You know that one guy? He's the new kid to join the club, all wide-eyed and eager to learn about the cool new thing he's been introd**spoiler alert** You know that one guy? He's the new kid to join the club, all wide-eyed and eager to learn about the cool new thing he's been introduced to. After the first couple meetings, he thinks he knows what's what, and starts getting into discussions with people about the topic the club covers. Unfortunately, he's not the greatest conversationalist, and ends up getting confrontational with the people he's trying to have a rational discussion with. "You think X? Well I think Y, and you're an idiot for thinking X. Let me list in detail why you're stupid and why what you think is stupid." Suddenly he thinks he can run the club better than the people who have been there for years. And somehow, against everyone's better judgement, one of his plans gets put into action. And then everyone dies.
Blind Faith is a story about that guy. Or at least, it should have been. Instead, Blind Faith is a satire/social commentary on the social media/reality tv/fast food loving culture of today. And unfortunately, it has all the subtleties of a speeding train to the face. The names of the popular websites in this potential future are simply abbreviated or mashed up versions of the popular websites of today: Facebook and Myspace are merged together to create Facespace; Youtube and Google get a few letters dumped from their names (in a break from the pattern, McDonald's is still McDonald's).
The dialogue is even more obvious. Trafford, our main character, regurgitates the information he receives from characters he meets back to other characters. Not once do we get a sense that he really understands what he's talking about, but we're supposed to agree with him, to root for him, because he's chosen science completely over the absurd future religion. In one of several arguments with his wife (a firm believer in the religion), she tries to meet him half-way, admitting that while man may have created vaccines (more on them later), couldn't it be possible that God gave them that information? While that should be an excellent starting point for someone trying to ease another person into seeing a new point of view, it's not good enough for Trafford. It's either science or God for him, and he makes it very clear (to the point of boredom) what his stance on God is. At this point in the novel, even I, someone who doesn't subscribe to any monotheistic religion wished I could make Trafford shut up. He is a boring, flat character with no redeeming qualities. And no personality traits, for that matter. He's simply a mouthpiece for the author, a soap box for him to stand on and rant about the absurdities he sees around him, exaggerated to the point of unbelievability. In the end, he's depicted as a martyr, dying for his cause, but honestly? I couldn't bring myself to care.
There are several other main characters in the book, and almost all of them are arguably more interesting than Trafford. Cassius, an elderly coworker of Trafford's is a Vaccinator, someone who administers now-illegal vaccines for easily preventable childhood diseases. He risks his life vaccinating infants in the hopes that some of them will survive the epidemics that plague the world now that vaccinations are treated as poisons, going against the will of God. I wish we could have learned more about his life, and the adventures he must have gone through in his day, but once Trafford has his daughter vaccinated, he uses Cassius as a source of books and rarely speaks to him after that.
Then there's Chantorria, Trafford's wife. She tries to be a devout follower of the future Christianity, but when she learns that, not only is Trafford keeping secrets, he had her child vaccinated -- both serious crimes, she too decides to keep them secret. In the end, she breaks down, no longer able to keep a private life and see herself as a good, religious woman, and the results are tragic. I would have liked to read about her conflicted thoughts, and how she struggled to reconcile these two lives, but unfortunately the book is predominantly written through Trafford's point of view.
Confessor Bailey and Sandra Dee make up the rest of the main characters, and they seem to suffer from the same disease that Trafford does that makes him flat and one-dimensional. They literally have no interesting or redeeming qualities that I can think of, sorry.
But I think now is a good time to mention about something I noticed about the characters as a whole. The female characters anyway. There are absolutely no strong female characters in this book. And while I could probably make an argument that there are no strong male characters in this book as well, but as we are still supposed to root for the male characters, it's still unfair. I know very well that not every book can be (or should be!) a feminist's best friend. But is it so much to ask for that there be a single female character one can look to in this book and not find horribly problematic? That a book doesn't reek of sexism, not just from within the fictional society, but from the author himself? When female characters are described, it's almost guaranteed that the focus will be on breasts and butts.
They are the loudest talkers, they are the worst gossips, they're bullies and busybodies and bitches, traitors and schemers, pitiful, weak and vain. I get that they're supposed to be a product of this future culture, but even Sandra Dee, the one woman that seems to think for herself is an undercover police officer. She uses Trafford for information and illegal books, and has his infant daughter infected with cholera so he couldn't announce he had her vaccinated to the rest of the community. What a lovely lady.
Chantorria is the only female character I could stand in more doses, primarily for the reasons listed above. She's interesting, but she makes bad decisions constantly. She succumbs to vanity, has religious delusions and treats her new-found "friends" as servants before being kicked back down to the lowest social rung once more. These would be perfectly acceptable character flaws if she had just grown in the ind. But she doesn't. By the last few chapters, she has a mental breakdown and confesses she knew her child was vaccinated, and walks down the street flogging herself. Once again in this novel, a woman is reduced to being pitiful, useless and hysterical.
Moving on, let's talk about the world Ben Elton has built for us. Or rather, has failed to build. The dystopia was supposed to have come about after global warming caused massive flooding on the earth. Okay, I can buy that. What I can't get behind is that, despite this catastrophic flood, despite the lack of vaccinations in infants allowing epidemics to kill about half of the children born before they reach five years of age, and despite that, with all of this flooding, there simply can't be enough farmlands to grow or raise enough food to support lifestyles similar to ours, that there has been a population explosion. People are packed like sardines, and having a single, three-person family in a tiny apartment is a luxury. And pretty much everyone is some degree of overweight.
My suspension of disbelief can only go so far, and Elton seems determined to stretch it until it snaps in two and hits me in the face. How is there enough electricity being generated to power the giant video screen walls in every room without land for them? Where is this food coming from? How can predominantly uneducated people maintain all of the technology that runs their lives? How can these same uneducated people read Darwin's Theory of Evolution, understand it, and agree with it in one night, when a simple children's science book is described as being hard to understand by an adult? And how can the author expect us to believe that a conservative, fundamentalist religious group would suddenly decide that public nudity and public sex -- especially in women, oh the horror -- should be accepted and encouraged? The entertainment industry (adult and otherwise) have rarely been on good terms with the religious right, and the mixture of the two in this way comes off as even more forced and contrived than Trafford's ideas.
There's little else to say about this book that wouldn't be a repeat of the above, or nitpicking at lesser problems. In all it felt more like a rough draft, and I do believe that it could have been better and more interesting if the plot holes were filled, and the characters were rounded out. I'd even give Trafford a second chance if he had a personality trait or two. As it stands, this book just didn't meet the expectations I had of it. If you're on the fence about it, I'd recommend picking it up at your library or buying a cheap used copy instead of paying full price....more
**spoiler alert** I've read three of the Supernatural tv tie-in books by DeCandido, and between them have come to a few conclusions, one of which is t**spoiler alert** I've read three of the Supernatural tv tie-in books by DeCandido, and between them have come to a few conclusions, one of which is that while DeCandido's grasp on character dialogue, interactions and characterization is for the most part pretty good (not as good as an actual episode, but it's readable and only makes me groan once in a while), his ability to create and follow through on an interesting plot is generally lacking. Nevermore had this problem, and Heart of the Dragon did even more so.
That said, this is DeCandido's strongest Supernatural book, plot-wise. Sam and Dean take a trip down to the Florida Keys to investigate a series of hauntings. The ghosts' (which include a poker-playing president, enraged Hemingway and a possessed doll) strengths have greatly increased, leaving them highly self-aware and able to talk and interact with the characters. Toss in some demons and a highly destructive spirit as the main villain, and you have what should be a pretty good book.
And it would have been, were it not for a few points that just bothered me.
The first is the ending, which involves Dean 'collecting' all of the local spirits within him and using their strength to fight off the villain. What happens is a spiritual duel with hand-waving and psychic beams that would probably look pretty cool on-screen, but falls flat in writing and comes off as slightly ridiculous. It's hard to imagine Dean in that position.
My other gripe with the book is DeCandido's treatment of women and gay and lesbian peoples. There are absolutely no strong women in this novel. Women in this book are either used to further the plot (i.e., be murdered by demons or spirits, or be possessed by one) or are shunted to background roles where they fade into obscurity and are eventually dropped out of the narration altogether (the inn-owner, construction worker). I realize that looking for a strong female character in a tv tie-in of a show that has some problems with occasional misogyny is probably a lost cause, but Mariotte managed to pull it off in Witch's Canyon, which I had read just a week before this. There were many female characters in this book, and for (most) all of them to be used as sex objects before being discarded or murdered/possessed leaves this female reader disheartened.
Now, I also mentioned I had a problem with the author's treatment of gay and lesbians. There were two (or perhaps three?) gay/lesbian couples mentioned in the book. Each of them felt as though they were quickly added in as an afterthought by the author in a bid to look inclusive and progressive. There was nothing remarkable about them -- and though I suppose I could say that this is a good thing, in that they for the most part came off as normal people that just happened to be gay or lesbian -- the characters in question feel out of place nonetheless.
The book has a fairly solid plot, and characterization is probably the best out of the four Supernatural books I've read. Were it not for the obvious issues in the novel, this would have been a really great book. As it stands, I don't think I'll be rereading this one any time soon....more
Between Jeff Mariotte and Keith DeCandido, I feel Mariotte has a better grasp on plot and setting. The descriptions are rich -- for a tv tie-in, thatBetween Jeff Mariotte and Keith DeCandido, I feel Mariotte has a better grasp on plot and setting. The descriptions are rich -- for a tv tie-in, that is -- and the zombies are varied, giving a unique set of dangers for each victim to face (the insect swarm was a personal favorite of mine). For those looking for horror-film amounts of gore, well, this book will probably please. In one of the later chapters, there's even a several-page montage of death scenes, each one different from the last. Points for creativity, at least.
Unfortunately, this is where Mariotte's talent ends, as Sam and Dean's characterization, dialogue, and general interactions with other characters feels stiff and at times out of character. I never got the sense that I was watching an actual episode of the show from this book, but instead was reading about two cookie-cutter generic guys that just happened to be named Sam and Dean, who happened to stumble upon a paranormal event. Indeed, the brothers seem to barely be involved with any of the goings-on in the book until the very end, instead listening to the town history as told by other characters, and tagging along for the ride.
If this had been an original novel, where Mariotte could have developed the characters into his own creations, this might have been a better book. As it stands, it reads like someone's first fanfiction. ...more