15 Following


I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.

Cowboys and Aliens - Joan D. Vinge, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg I'm not sure why Vinge, a good writer, agreed to novelize this. It's an uphill slog. The history appears to be that there was a 1980's screenplay, which was turned into a graphic novel, and then again into a graphic novel, and then a screenplay and film (with multiple writers), and then a novelization. I haven't seen the graphic novels or the movie, so I only have the novel to go on, and that novel is formulaic and boring. This is not at all what I expect from Vinge, so I have to assume that a big part of the problem is that she's stuck with having to be true to the movie (and possibly to previous incarnations of the story) rather than getting to add her own changes and interpretations. Here's the thing: No good explanation is given for Jake's shackle/bracelet. Yes, he got it by somehow not being quite as susceptible as every other human to the aliens' pulsing hypnosis light, so therefore he could lash out at the alien commencing to dissect him, and it just happens that on the instrument tray is an alien tool/weapon that reads human impulses as well as the aliens', and can be turned against the aliens? And this happens to snap itself onto his wrist when he happens to be the one guy who can fight the mind control? And the humans' ability to repel the aliens relies on Jake's lone shackle staving them off until dynamite and the shackle's self-destruct sequence can blow up the ship? That is weak by any plot construction standards. And if you were in Jake's shoes, wouldn't you look for more of these shackle/tool/weapons when you were in the dissection chamber? The story as novelized is humorless and pretty boring. I assume Vinge was going for a "standard Western novel" feel, but instead created poor genre fiction. The fights are particularly badly rendered in wordy, non-urgent prose. In dialogue, what may be intended as laconic is instead flat. Again, she was probably stuck with the movie script's dialogue and action, which are not great even when read in a loud and pressured delivery by the audiobook's narrator. IMDB has identified a number of anachronisms in the film that also appear in the book. These include the use of cardboard matchboxes and the name of the town now called Puerto Vallarta. To this I add that Vinge's use of the word "actinic," which, while accurately descriptive, seems like a jump from a character-centered limited-omniscient narration to an authorial one. "Actinic" was in use at the time (1844, says the OED), but I doubt it would be in Jake's or most other characters' vocabulary or conceptual/educational experience. This criticism highlights a writing problem that belongs to Vinge: Point of view shifts inconsistently between characters, sometimes confusingly. This detracts from whatever capacity the reader has to remain at the level of the story rather than needing to back up to figure out when and where the perspective shifted. This story needs all the breaks it can get, so it is not served by jumps in narrative stance.