Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Days Gone Bad

Days gone Bad: Vesik, Book 1 by Eric Asher


I've spent a couple of days thinking about this review, about whether I should write it and how I should write it.  Why?  Because I do not like this book.

I have a rule that I do not read books I don't enjoy unless I'm getting some sort of pay-out (like the books I read for classes and such).  So, I must report that I have not finished it.  I've put 4 hours and 50 minutes into this book.  There are 4 hours left of it.  I can't make myself care.

I did try.  I pushed through a lot of words because I felt like I owed it to the author to read the whole thing before making a negative review.  I resented every minute and decided that, no, I've already bought the book so I owe the author nothing more than to be polite while I dislike the results of his hard work.

So, what didn't I like?

I'll start with the narrator, William Dufris.  I imagine he could be a very good narrator if he could simply underplay rather than overplay what he's narrating.  The nearly constant audible eyerolls and eyebrow wiggles got irritating quickly.  Everything was exaggerated, broad and bright and layered with signals and a 'Hey, listener!  You should laugh now!" inflection.  If he'd been a bit more restrained, I might have enjoyed the book a little more.

That ties in with my second problem with the book.  It was like listening to a narrated situation comedy complete with laugh track and applause sign.  The humor tends toward slapstick (I am, admittedly, no fan of slapstick -- I'm more Grouch Marx than Three Stooges, more Monty Python than The Goodies), and each joke is so obviously set up and the punchline delivered like a baseball bat to the forehead.  Characters are constantly laughing at each other, rolling on their sides, gasping weakly, grinning broadly -- in short, instructing me as the reader/listener that THIS IS FUNNY!  LAUGH NOW!  I was never allowed to decide what was funny or not on my own.  Often times the humor was shoved into scenes not because the main character (this is another 1st person, in the urban fantasy tradition) has a sense of humor, but because genre tropes dictate that the dark hero of an urban fantasy comes equipped with a sense of humor, usually dry and self-deprecating. It was in the script, so to speak, on page 7 at the bottom.

I could have also skipped over the exploding pigeons and the incredibly petty behavior that caused them.

And that leads to my third problem with the book.  Characters existed as lists of quirks and foibles.  These aren't exhibited so much as described.  I did not see these things.  Rather, I was told they existed.  The relationships between characters were also a matter of tell, not show, and often seemed called into existence with a wave of the author's hand.  It's not wrong to have relationships in place when the story starts, but these can be demonstrated in less obvious ways.  The story lacked the sophistication that I have come to expect. In my head, I could almost picture the character sheets written up for each, with selections from the advantages and disadvantages tables balanced to yield more character creation points.  I had little that I could grab onto, and nothing that made me sympathetic to anyone.

Which leads to my forth problem -- this book could benefit from a hard nosed editor beating it with a red pen to remove cliches, repeated words, and odd divergences.  That editor could probably also indicate missing actions that confused me (how someone got back into a car I never saw them get out of, things like that) and maybe tighten up some rambling. The book lacked polish. This isn't the best the author can produce, and a good editor could have helped with that.

This book disappointed me, in summary, because it felt like the author had gone through some sort of "how to" book on writing in this genre.  He took the idea he had about necromancers and fairies (which, into chapter 15 of the book, is still not explained -- there are interesting ideas in the book, but they are never fleshed out and rarely made part of the world) and followed the recipe.  The result is a rather bland dish in which the author didn't assert his individual flair.  I gave the book as many chances as I could tolerate -- far more than I generally do, since I typically give a book 3 chapters to woo me and bring me in -- and eventually decided I had better things to do.

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