The premise is simple: Insane fans who worship Bruce Campbell use unexplained technology to destroy William Shatner while he's hosting a convention, b...moreThe premise is simple: Insane fans who worship Bruce Campbell use unexplained technology to destroy William Shatner while he's hosting a convention, but instead it pulls many/most of his characters into our world and seals off the convention and pits the characters against "Real" Shatner in a battle to the death.
When you put it that way, how could it fail?
On the plus side: It's a novella, so the joke doesn't have time to fall too flat. It treats the "Real" Shatner kindly. Great running gags about the Singing Shatner. Includes Elizabethan Shatner and Twilight Zone Shatner and others that are easy to miss. Has Denny Crane Shatner, which more stories need.
But there are plenty of minuses, mostly in the world-building. We have a hyper-violent society with unnecessarily explicit torture that only seems to matter once. Convention security are referenced repeatedly but only appear in two scenes. Some thought seems to have gone into how the two high-tech bombs work and how the failure of one leaves the imported characters (Kirk Shatner is able to activate a toy light saber, creating a spectacular crossover at the expense of a deus ex machina), but we get minimal, muddled explanations, as well as other plot devices like a "static field" that keeps anyone from leaving for help. The relationship between the rest of the world and the Campbellians is unclear and hard to believe. Some history about "network wars" and other celebrities being executed feels hand-wavey at best.
The writing was readable, although muddled on any details that weren't action and avoided most action details by describing action after-the-fact. I couldn't tell it if was supposed to be a thriller, a comedy, or satire. The level of violence seemed erratic and probably gratuitous. The writing around the cold, murderous convention organizer was completely different in tone from the earnest, doomed terrorists or the desperate "Real" Shatner or the various parodies of Shatner's characters. Add in a bizarrely superfluous faux-Shatner character and a completely unnecessary and jarring scene with Animated Kirk Shatner and it felt a little like reading a shared-world story.
But really, it's short, it's cheap, and it has Rescue 911 Shatner standing around dying people asking the air to stay tuned and see if paramedics make it in time, while The Negotiator Shatner (from the Priceline commercials) keeps saying he can get them out of here cheaper and every shatner stops to remind you not to interact with Singing Shatner, since "he only does it for the attention."
As a wrapper for some fun fanboy slapstick, it's 3 or 4 stars. As actual science fiction, it's 2.
Call it 3 stars, get the ebook version cheap, and have a fun, quick read.(less)
-- Placeholder to remind me to read and review this when I can get a copy... I was handed an ARC of the first book in the series, but I don't think I'v...more-- Placeholder to remind me to read and review this when I can get a copy... I was handed an ARC of the first book in the series, but I don't think I've pissed off any booksellers enough lately that there will be a repeat(1) --
City of Souls killed the series. Dead. I tried to read Cheat the Grave as the start of something new, but it was very much "What if Vicki Pettersson tried to write a Weather Warden book?" That's an improvement over City of Souls, but not a way to start something sustainable.
I'll read this one for three reasons: 1) Writing these reviews helps remind me that being snarky should be supported by clear examples (and for something that kind of passes for good analysis) 2) I have too much inertia to stop in the middle of a series unless it actually makes me angry at the author
3) Have you seen that cover art? Is it actually for real? Even by the standard of the genre, that's bad. It would be considered lurid on a 1970s sexploitation horror card. It *might* be appropriate for a mid-80s straight-to-cable shot-on-Beta excuse to talk some women in the local acting program into lying around half-naked with caro syrup poured on their necks. I've seen horror movied filmed in the Tucson, Arizona public library target the same demographic with less cheese. (Really, I have. I know what branch it was filmed in. I've met the director. Even he can't say the name without laughing.)
Somehow, this book will take itself seriously and somehow--impossibly--it will try not to be ashamed of that cover.
And I gotta read that.
------ 1) To be fair, the ARC of Scent of Shadows was handed to me by Jude at the incredible San Francisco store Borderlands, and she was not being mean. It had come in, the cover copy looked interesting, and she was feeling like handing stuff out. (less)