So... I read this book primarily just to get it out of my house (I was sorting books for a charity sale), and even though the paperback was well underSo... I read this book primarily just to get it out of my house (I was sorting books for a charity sale), and even though the paperback was well under 200 pages, I almost didn't make it through.
I've read a few decent books by this author, but this is certainly not one of them. There is virtually no conflict in the story (despite the best attempts by the blurb to imply that the heroine is in danger of being forced into an unwanted marriage -- spoiler, she really isn't!), and the characters are such cardboard cutouts they make make preteen fanfiction tropes look complex. Additionally, it's probably the preachiest G. L. Hill book I've ever read, complete with long Scripture excerpts and letters in which the lead couple discuss their respective theology. Repeatedly. I'm fairly certain there is more ink devoted to theology than anything approaching romance in this book.
Complete summary of book, which I'm not going to spoiler tag because that would imply there's something to spoil: Perfect Mary Sue is sad because her mother has died and she's broke. Her old school chum Gary Stu, who is both wealthy and God-fearing, meets her by chance (and randomly kisses her). She thinks he's nice, but she is on her way to visit estranged relatives. Said relatives are miserable, greedy, godless people who want her to marry a creepy neighbor who owes them money. She says no. She then visits her other relatives, who are all fellow perfect Mary Sues (and appropriately God-fearing), and writes a lot of letters to Gary Stu about the Bible. Gary Stu shows up and they get married, and the evil relatives are so moved by her perfect Mary Sue ways that they all decide to read the Bible, too. THE END.
I wish I were making that up, but sadly, that's the story -- but with a lot more crystalline tears and trembling fingers and perfect Mary Sue-ness. :P The best thing about this book was that the edition I had (a 1970s-vintage paperback) tried so desperately to make it sound interesting that they actually fabricated a FAKE EXCERPT for inside the front cover, in which the heroine was faced with a terrible choice and had to make a snap decision about marrying for love or money. Pretty gutsy of the publisher, since nothing even remotely like that happened in the book....more
The Torchwood novels, released in progressive sets of three throughout the show's run, follow the chronology of the TV series in terms of character deThe Torchwood novels, released in progressive sets of three throughout the show's run, follow the chronology of the TV series in terms of character development and major events. This first book is set somewhere around the second or third episode of Series 1, with the corresponding early versions of the characters: Jack is tough and mysterious and shows little warmth; Gwen still thinks like a beat cop, and is frequently appalled by Jack's lack of humanity; Owen is a petulant creep who chafes at Jack's orders; Toshiko gushes techno-babble while having little defined personality; and Ianto is still solidly in his one-dimensional butler role, though there are refreshing moments when informed readers know he's slipping off to the basement to check on Lisa. (Amusingly, he deflects whenever Jack tries to flirt with him. Definitely early days...)
There are some fans who liked the original characterizations from series 1, but I am not among them. That made elements of this story less appealing to me (why should I care about Owen's love life when I really just want him to be hit by a bus?), but in the book's defense, overall, the writing is very true to the voice of the characters at that point in the series. There are even moments that foreshadow some of the developments to come, which is nice, and there are occasional nods to Jack's mysterious past -- or future, whichever way you view it.
That said, there were a few moments that felt off in terms of characterization -- Owen's digital avatar and game of choice was not at all what I would have expected for someone of his personality type, nor was his supposed lack of technical knowledge believable. (For that matter, the entire MMO description felt very much like someone trying to relate something they had never personally experienced. Perhaps the author didn't know any gamers?) And Toshiko, who had the least "screen time" in this book, was surprisingly standoffish and caustic toward Owen, even threatening bodily harm, which seems out of character for her.
In terms of plot, it's a bit more complicated than the usual episode adventures, with several avenues of investigation going on at once, but that's not an unwelcome change for a series that characteristically suffered from too many one-dimensional crises. There's a bit of Rift-related hand-waving and super-convenient technology -- again, typical Torchwood fare -- and the last third of the book or so is entirely predictable, but it's not handled badly. (To be fair, this book has a more complete storytelling structure than most of the Torchwood episodes did...)
In short, if you liked Series 1, this installment is worth reading. But be warned -- there's a lot of pre-redemption Owen in it....more
This wartime caper, while a bit darker than the average Saint adventure, nevertheless fails to be one of his more memorable escapades. Perhaps this isThis wartime caper, while a bit darker than the average Saint adventure, nevertheless fails to be one of his more memorable escapades. Perhaps this is due to the scrim of patriotic fervor that weighs down Simon's usual devil-may-care spirit; or perhaps it's simply difficult to reconcile a story that opens with a man being gruesomely burned alive with the lighthearted banter that typifies the Saint's chronicles.
[minor spoiler warning] This tale also has Simon working as agent for a nameless top-secret government intelligence outfit to hunt down a ring of Nazi saboteurs, which is a dramatic shift from the opportunistic adventures or Robin Hood-type rescues that Simon usually engages in.
Still, in spite of the heavy wartime message, a slightly deus-ex-narrator resolution, and an over-the-top femme fatale who could have been played by Garbo, Charteris' writing is in form, with plenty of quirky descriptions and fun one-liners. Long-time fans of The Saint will want to read this installment, if only for the head-shaking image of Simon as a secret agent. But readers who have never enjoyed a Saint tale should probably begin with one of his earlier adventures....more
A quick and entertaining read that gives a knowing wink to fantasy tropes and draws as many laughs as you'd expect from a story about a rotting animatA quick and entertaining read that gives a knowing wink to fantasy tropes and draws as many laughs as you'd expect from a story about a rotting animate corpse trying to make it to the afterlife. If you're looking for Tolkien-esque high fantasy, you've got the wrong book -- but there's plenty of snarky humor and genre parody, and it's a fun way to pass a couple of hours.
I feel this rating requires some explanation -- but though I'm capable of charting a full analysis of my opinion swings while reading this book, I'llI feel this rating requires some explanation -- but though I'm capable of charting a full analysis of my opinion swings while reading this book, I'll try to keep it brief.
First of all, I'll freely admit that I've never enjoyed the post-1964 Saint books -- the ones Leslie Charteris edited, but did not write -- as much as the ones written by Charteris himself. There is a certain cleverness in Charteris' own writing that is lacking in most imitators' works, and while some of the ghostwriters still produced decent stories, I always missed the electricity and wit of authentic Charteris. This could be interpreted as an unfair bias against more recent publications; and that may well be the case.
However, that said, I started Capture the Saint with an open mind. Sure, Charteris himself had not been involved, but the book was authorized by his estate and had been penned by an established writer and avowed Saint expert. Quite frankly, had I not been optimistic, I would never have paid money for the book in the first place. (I'm purist enough to admit that.)
I won't try to summarize here (I have enough else to say!), but to give you an idea of tone, the book is chock full of references and throwbacks to the original Saint stories. In some cases, these work -- an early remark about The Falcon had me laughing out loud -- but more often they fall flat, or are so forced that they detract from the story, such as when the author shoehorns countless publication titles into the text, or when Simon randomly quotes a bit of dialogue from a previous book with no particular reason to. Far from seeming clever or natural, these insertions felt more like the book trying to justify its association with an established franchise. (Plus, I ultimately found the verbal acrobatics irritating. Did we really need to find a way to force "The Saint Bids Diamonds" or any other title into a spoken sentence?)
The story itself is not badly conceived, though the Saint seemed a little out of place in it -- but if I expound on that topic, I'll run out of space in my review pretty quickly. Suffice it to say that I found the plot a trifle overcomplicated (minor spoiler: We could have done without the entire Buzzy subplot at the end, which was both predictable and anticlimactic; and Diamond Tremayne was completely gratuitous). It also felt overpopulated, with heavy-handed characters whose names often bore a similarity to actors or characters involved with previous Saint incarnations. (Certainly, Charteris himself was often guilty of stooping to stereotypes and pulp cliches, but he seemed to do it with more finesse. Or perhaps he just wasn't writing with the tropes of the late '80s/early '90s.)
Even so, these failings only reduce the work to the level of fairly decent fanfiction -- which, after all, is what happens when the author of a beloved character dies and a new writer must pick up the thread of the story. It's been done with everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Ford Prefect to The Avengers, and Simon Templar is no exception to this process. It may be a step down from pure original Charteris, but that in itself is not bad -- at least, not demoting enough to merit a two-star rating.
No -- in this case, the absolute biggest problem I have with this book is the unforgivable number of grammar and spelling errors throughout! I am convinced that this manuscript never crossed the sightline of an editor, or even a competent English teacher, before publication. Simple errors like misplaced punctuation and misused homophones abound. Elementary English mistakes involving your/you're and their/there are the norm, and I swear to you the word "whose" only appears in the text four times (believe me; I searched the Kindle edition). Every other instance when that word should appear is a misuse of "who's." (These mistakes are perplexing, as all the promotional material credits Burl Barer as an award-winning author of many books. Surely, if he's written that many things, he knows how to use an apostrophe? Or at least has an editor who does? I really don't know what happened here.)
These errors give the book a slapdash, unprofessional aspect that only reinforces the idea that it's fanfiction instead of a clean, finished work. The distracting typos, compounding the middling plot and thick-ladled references, made reading the book an unexciting task that I embarked on largely to justify the fact that I'd spent money on it.
In the end, it was just... there. Not terrible, but disappointing, in a way. I couldn't help feeling that something with The Saint's name on it should have been better....more
As Gothic novels go, this one falls into the tinsel category: shiny, completely predictable and not terribly taxing to the brain. Still, it's both preAs Gothic novels go, this one falls into the tinsel category: shiny, completely predictable and not terribly taxing to the brain. Still, it's both pretty and entertaining, and Elizabeth Peters' ubiquitous infusion of archaeology and historical events add welcome depth to the backdrop of revolutionary Italy.
As a shameless fan of masked crusaders -- my Scarlet Pimpernel and Zorro collections will bear me out in this -- I had hoped for a bit more visible action from the titular Falcon, but the story works even when that character spends most of the book out of view. It's a fast read with a satisfying, albeit predictable, conclusion....more