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.