Friday, April 15, 2011

review of A Hundred Words for Hate

I'm growing increasingly disappointed in the Remy Chandler books. I love, love, love the concept of an angel who willingly leaves Heaven after The War is over, choosing to walk among humans and behave as one, who then gets pulled back into all manner of battles that are epically Biblical in nature. I love Remy/Remiel's divided nature (Seraphim vs. Human personalities). I love the basic concepts Sniegoski comes up with to fill Remy's life with adventure: the return of the Four Horsemen, the real fate of Lucifer, and now the possible return of the Garden of Eden. I've enjoyed the author's twists on Biblical folks like Samson, Delilah, Noah and others.

But somewhere in the last two books, I've discovered that Sniegoski's execution of those concepts just doesn't work for me.  I finished this book because it's a Remy Chandler book and I love the character -- but I felt none of the excitement, drama, and concern that I should have felt considering the concept of the book overall and the twists it puts in place for the main series characters (Remy and his cop friend Steven Mulvehill most of all, and also Remy's dead angel friend Francis/Fraciel).  Largely, this felt like a place-holder book, a moving of chess pieces: the events surrounding Francis spew directly from the end of the previous book, and the events involving Mulvehill seem intended to set up his character arc for the next book ... and in Mulvehill's case particularly it feels like what happens to him has little or no bearing on the actual main plot or even a secondary plot.

So why is Sniegoski's style not working for me?  A few reasons, I think. One is that his style just feels too sparse. To me, the books feel like they'd rather be television episodes. The scene changes (especially those that occur mid-chapter and jump from one character to another) feel like there should be commercial breaks inserted, or at least dramatic-close-up-theme-music being played over a brief fade to black.  The dialogue is occasionally repetitive (and more than once, exact phrasing is repeated in describing two different characters, something an editor should have caught) and feels perfectly detective-show-cliche.  I'm okay with sparse scenery descriptions that allow the reader to imagine what things look like, but Sniegoski goes beyond sparse into bare-minimum in a way that works against my mental picture instead of allowing it to form.

Another reason might have to do with one of my pet peeves about series fiction. I find that  typically authors go to one extreme or the other -- they either tell us too much about the events of previous books, thus bogging down the current book's pace, or they tell us too little to remind us of where the characters are coming from in relation to the new book, so that we have to struggle to determine if what we're seeing is character growth or just inconsistency on the author's part. This time, Sniegoski falls into that latter group. If an author is going to use a book's b-plot to make major changes to a character's status quo, we need enough detail to understand why that change is important, and I don't feel like we got that in the case of either Francis or Mulvehill -- both of whom have life (or after-life)-changing experiences in this book.

Finally, there's the fact that my reaction to most of what happens in the book is to ask "why should I care about this moment, this supporting character? Should I be trying to place it all in context with the previous books? Is it worth the effort?"  After a while, I gave up trying to tax my brain, and I gave up caring very much. I don't want to give up completely, but I suspect I will not rush to read the next Chandler book as soon as it comes out.

1 comment:

LindaG said...

It's always annoying when it seems like the author would rather be doing something else.