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DMS

Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: Vicious

VIcious - Victoria Schwab, V. E. Schwab

Schwab displays some excellent construction skills here, with multiple timelines interwoven to align past and present events in ways that, rather than foreshadow, introduce the action unfolding in the present.

 

I admit to being annoyed by this initially, since I hate the sort of construction that stretches out a boring few minutes of nothing happening by cutting back to the past events that are supposed to give the scene emotional impact. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, go watch the new BSG episode Scar from season 2. I know writers think that shit is art, but I just think it's annoying. So, the present for the first 100 pages of this novel consists of digging a hole. God Fucking Damn, seriously, let's shovel a bit and have a single line of dialog and then dive back into the time when shit is happening. Multiple times in the past doesn't make the present more exciting when you're digging a hole. But then stuff starts to happen in the present, and it's pretty fun.

 

On the fun side, there's a lot of scenes describing attempted suicides, gun fights, odd character quirks, and fun origin stories for various x-men, herein called EO's. The makings of a television show a lot like Heroes, but watchable, with fixed rules and no heroes.

 

I kind of want to give this 4 stars, and if it were a movie or a television show, I'd be raving about it to everyone I knew. Unfortunately, as a book, there's a weakness that can't be glossed over. In writing, characters need to be more than the window dressing of quirks these are.

 

Repetition of the same trivial characteristic over and over isn't the same thing as depth when we get to actually be in the head of a character.Each character that's introduced seems like an interesting puzzle, but the more time I spent with them, the less I could tell them apart. Sometimes I lost track of if a scene was from the POV of the 13 year old girl or the escaped convict if they were both in it. Typos in pronouns just exacerbated the problem.

 

There are parts where she shows different characters reaching conclusions to similar scenarios, and those are interesting but insufficient. Victor and Eli's different opinions on hotel parking garages really aren't enough to get a sense of either one.

 

I did like the end. Even with its predictable circular shape and obvious nod to the potential for a sequel. And while Victor's plan isn't new (just yesterday I watched a procedural that started with his finale) the execution was interesting to watch.

 

I don't know. I just don't know. There's a lot here that's technically competent. More than competent, really, but the cardboard characters are kind of a problem for me. I may give Schwab another try, but not in the near future.

 

If there were some way for this book and the Disillusionist trilogy to mate, the offspring's combination of tight world building, narrative control, and zany characters would rule the super hero novel genre.

 

If only.