Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Genre Fail.

I made it about 20% of the way through Justin Cronin's The Passage before shutting it off. The book deals with a virus found in the jungles of Bolivia that causes vampirism. Good enough. Some reader reviews presented it as a post-apocalyptic tale, but the part I listened to was all pre-apocalyptic, with a secret military operation going on to explore the virus' effects. There were a few weaknesses in the operation, and I assume through one of these routes the virus would escape and go, well, viral. I had some concerns about the mismatch between what people reported the novel to be and what I was hearing. Was all this backstory necessary? But that wasn't what killed it for me. What did it was two questions:

1. Is anything about this story new and different in approach or execution? Am I surprised by any of the plot choices the writer is making? Is he creating problems for himself that I want to see him solve? Am I learning anything about writing by reading this? There's the real killer. I'm a writer. I need to be learning from what I read.

2. Are any of these characters any different from what I would expect them to be? Are the military commanders other than hard-bitten, just-following-orders, possibly-sociopathic types? Is the FBI agent working out past emotional scars? In fact, about the only note of non-cliché is that the innocent little girl caught up in the story has black hair rather than blonde. Maybe because it's a vampire story?

In the end, there was nothing new here, the writing was not exceptional, and there was too much of it. It was slow, it was only mildly interesting, it was done. On to the next.

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