Miles's Reviews > Alpha

Alpha by Greg Rucka
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's review
Dec 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed

This is a fast paced thriller that gets the job done nicely. I read it mostly to study the art of building a story. If you're going to write, you have to pay attention to the craft.

As a reader I found it difficult to follow this book (like many that I read) in terms of the spatial relationships and the visual appearance of the cartoon characters. Clearly Rucka had a map of his world (the theme park) in his mind and was moving his charcters around it. I never had the slightest sense that I knew where the action was taking place within the theme park. This is perhaps my limitation as a reader. If I were writing, I would not be able to, or try to, write a story in which the map mattered.

Likewise, Rucka introduces a world of psuedo-Disney-esque characters and costumes. I could not keep them straight in my head. Indeed, the whole commercialized myth of this psuedo-Disney world eluded me. I couldn't visualize the characters or their costumes. Again, this is my limitation as a reader. I imagined the author, with sketches of the cartoon characters taped to his monitor, knowing exactly what they looked like, but I couldn't grok it, no matter how many times he told me. I felt it almost cried out for a graphic novel or comic book to capture the visual diversity that he was working with.

None of this is intended as a criticism of the book, which although conventional in form, was gripping. I was able to read through and past the stuff I can't imagine. The most interesting moment in the book came toward the end, when Rucka introduced just a small doubt in my mind about whether the hero inevitably would conquer the villain. For a few pages I thought that this might turn out instead to be the story of a successful villainy, and found myself rooting for the bad guy, not so much because of the plot, but because the bad guy was revealed as a human being with yearnings for normalcy. Had it gone in this direction, succesful escape following mass scale terrorism, we would have had a much more provocative story. But the anti-protaganist's success would have defied the convention of the genre, and it quickly became clear that such delights were not to be. Oh well. It was a fun ride anyway.

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