I didn't realize this book was something like thirteen years old when I picked it up at the library. I thought it was a more recent piece, but a check...moreI didn't realize this book was something like thirteen years old when I picked it up at the library. I thought it was a more recent piece, but a check on Goodreads revealed that it came before The Murder Room, which I have recently read. Well, last year.
I want to say something about Father John very quickly. He was convicted of child molestation, and a handful of characters, certainly not all, comment that it was "only fondling" and that no child was raped or injured. Well, as we all know, or should, that's not an excuse or a mitigation. A great deal of damage has been done by "fondling."
However, these comment were not as pervasive as I thought they were going to be, from the reviews I read here. I think they were mentioned perhaps three times, that I remember. A great many other shocks and crimes came into play here, and the shocking murder at the center of the book overshadowed these words.
I think that the reviews that become outraged over this book are assuming that the author has that "only fondling so it's okay" worldview, and that is a mistake. If, outside of this book, James had commented in that way, made that opinion known, that would be one thing. But it's never wise to assume that the opinions spoken by fictional characters reflect the opinions of the author. I do not see the dialogue in this book as James' condoning child molestation, or even dismissing it. I see the characters interacting and making sense of what they're doing and feeling in words as best they can. They like Father John, and they don't want to believe he is capable of such a thing, but he was convicted and confessed, so they have to approach it somehow.
Those of you who know me know that I don't take well to absolutist thought. I don't deal in black and white, this or that, dualistic thinking. For me, absolutism leads to a place of absurdity (the Bible is true, so it's LITERALLY true, so the world is no more than 6000 years old!), hypocrisy (the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination and so is shellfish but lalala let's just skip that part because I love lobster), or cruelty (I don't think I need to define this one, but hey, how about that whole Spanish Inquisition thing, right?).
There is a lot in this book that is taken in stride by its characters, but it all comes back to a sense of humanity. That's the test. Those who are empathetic, or protecting life, seeing beauty or just being gentle.....those are forgiven their sins to some degree. Those who pursue their black and white ideals, desires and entitlements, those who are too rigid to see any other way....they meet a bad end. That's not a bad message for a book like this. At least for me.
I'm not saying that in real life, we should forgive child molesters for only fondling. Father John Betterton was not forgiven. He's a registered sexual predator. He gets to live with that for the rest of his life, wherever he goes. Does he not deserve to be treated a person, once he's served his time, and registered with the police station and tried to atone? Is he not allowed that?
See, that's an interesting question to me. And in the world that James has created here, sinners who retain their humanity get to be treated like people.
It's a very complicated world James has built here. And I find it interesting. (less)
Other than some technical copyediting problems and a tendency for the heroine to sink into hysteria, this is a solid effort. I think the copyeditors n...moreOther than some technical copyediting problems and a tendency for the heroine to sink into hysteria, this is a solid effort. I think the copyeditors need to go ahead and use the computer for cleanup--a spellcheck program would have caught the triple "p" in one word, and a find/replace function should have been used to catch the "grizzly/grisly" error--and then trust themselves to fix the rest.
The copyediting problems take one star, the plucky heroine who still screams a lot takes another. Otherwise, I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to reading Death du Jour. (less)
The dialogue in this book is awful. Just unbelievably awful. It's clear the author is trying for quirky bantering, especially with her side characters...moreThe dialogue in this book is awful. Just unbelievably awful. It's clear the author is trying for quirky bantering, especially with her side characters, Sherlock (really?) and Savich, who are married FBI partners and the anchors of the series (protagonists come and go, but Sherlock and Savich and their awkward flirtations remain for each book). She fails. Obviously, she adores her little anchors, but when they talk sexy talk, they sound like Aspies talking about trains, but not as hot.
And then there's the problem of the Sookie Stackhouse-like heroine, who is supposed to be a Ph.D and all kinds of brilliant, but her idea of solving her problems is to live in homeless shelters for a few weeks until she figures things out.
And the plot is too stupid for words, so we'll just quit here. (less)
Every work has an audience, and is written toward an intended audience. It's no use saying the author wrote it for herself; even if she believes she d...moreEvery work has an audience, and is written toward an intended audience. It's no use saying the author wrote it for herself; even if she believes she did, she still had someone else in mind, someone she imagined would read it.
Shadow Unit's intended audience is LiveJournal. Period. From the interstitial "blog entries" to the dialogue to the descriptions to the relationships, this is a LiveJournal fan community work. There are many times I had to stop and ask myself, "Would someone really say that, if she weren't nostril deep in LJ fan community?"
It's not all a bad thing--the LJ community tends to be literate beyond the SF/geek fanbase, and so that adds a layer that you won't find in the kind of TV shows this story is based on. But there are still deep problems with the characters that I find myself withdrawing from, just as I have found myself withdrawing from the LJ community.
The first and biggest problem with LJ-flavored fiction is the old "men written as women with penises" problem. There's a "blog" (LiveJournal has never been particularly bloggy to me--it's really a much more literate and game-devoid early version of Facebook based not on who you know but who you find) entry in which Chaz Villette reveals he is going on a date. He actually (jokingly) begs someone to dress him and do his hair. Now that's something adorable you would see on LJ. That's not how I perceive (I'm putting the onus on me here) a federal agent to behave in a public, albeit friendslocked forum.
(Let's be serious here. Would any federal agent, knowing what he knows about the law and what can be done to get around, even flout it, would put this kind of thing out on LiveJournal, of all services?)
And there's the whole "dress me, do my hair!" thing as a young man (the youngest man on the team), who has a macho (but gay) Texan and a 60's throwback they call "Duke" after the Doonesbury character, as colleagues, would likely never be caught saying, never mind squealing with two of the three woman who look at him in a motherly sort of way. I know, stereotypes.
It's probably just me, but I find the LiveJournal flavor so pervasive, that it puts me off the whole project. I can't make it work in my head, and when I do, it feels sticky, like onehanded use of the keyboard.
I enjoy the characters, and the stories are fairly well constructed, though poorly written. Having to backtrack once or twice to figure out who is speaking or what is happening in a scene is my problem. I'm reading too fast or I'm not paying attention. When I have to backtrack every third or fourth scene, or I have to reread to figure out why a character I thought was dead is suddenly speaking is the author's problem. (Or, since I've withdrawn from LJ culture, again my problem? Not getting the shorthand?)
It's not working for me. That doesn't mean it won't work for you. But I'm feeling like the wallflower at the party (or worse, one of the cheerleaders who quit the squad), and that is never how your reader should feel. (less)