Monday, February 17, 2014

Vicious, Book Review

VICIOUS, by V. E. Schwab.

This one was mislabeled. It should be considered Young Adult. Then I wouldn’t be so mad at the shitty characters or “what’s a second draft?” plot. It fits the teen crap category better anyway. Every inch of it screams “poorly thought out” with a vibe like this is all a high school club. The particulars:

Story: The one thing I won’t disparage about this “story” was the creation of EOs (ExtraOrdinary) but not because it was well-done, only because I know it’s a tough proposition. Here, the kids commit suicide and if they come back then get some power related to what they were thinking about at the time. Whatever, I haven’t heard that one before so it gets a pass.

The “story” is either in the past, going over how the two Mains got be feuding, or present, which styles itself a revenge tale but is going to feel like some snotty brat having a hissy. Good news: each chapter is short enough that if you do have really bad ADD then there’s not worry about not completing one.

The two guys, Victor & Eliot, start off as barely likeable assholes. They’re arrogant and take themselves way too serious. They’re friends even though neither trusts the other or really values them. You’re meant to believe they’re both perfect specimens of wit and physique without anything they ever do or say to back that up. Writer’s Tip! If you have to tell the reader how to feel about someone, you're not doing your job.

In the present, it’s said they’ve aged ten years but they act exactly the same. The ten years was thrown out there because it sounds heavy. By now the “drama” is a thick viscous coating the pages. Schwab favors short sentences meant to punch the reader with layers of meaning. Shit like “The morning was cold. And so was the look on Eli’s face when he pulled the gun. Sydney shivered”. I cringe to think if Schwab ever gave a reading of this garbage. But maybe they got Shatner to really give the prose its due.

Key points hinge on the reader not knowing who the police are or what they do. Main character got arrested for murder? Circumstantial evidence from an unreliable “friend” with an obvious axe to grind who didn’t actually witness it will put him away for ten. In fact, it might be best if the reader never referred to their own common sense. Wanted fugitives checking into an up-scale hotel? Cause Victor’s so smooth! Wanted fugitives walking around a town at all hours? Yeah, because the hacker guy HACKED their pictures out of all the databases on the whole planet. Driving the same stolen vehicle around for a couple days? No way anybody would be looking for it! Oh man Vic, you just told your enemy to meet you at midnight (so Tough Guy), do you have a plan? No. I’ll wait for the contrived plot to catch up. You know an author is writing by the seat of their pants when they have to spend a page explaining why, even though a character could do something that perfectly aligns with their goals, they won’t. Because my plot is falling apart after a hundred pages and I need to make it to three hundred.

Other “characters” have one power / ability, one obvious use, with little reason to be doing what they’re doing. Schwab struggles to hang any other details on their naked archetype builds. The hacker guy is really strong and likes chocolate milk. I mean, it’s getting there…

For Victor and Eli, most of their characterization, and emoting, is done through various smiles. Odds are good their first and final reaction to something is a smile that Schwab reads way too much into. Wolfish, menacing, with an intangible secret quality, a hint of rebellion, kinda sexy, little odd, and maybe dark if the light is right. It’s like Schwab’s character notes are just pasted into the story. Normally such ideas are developed. Schwab prefers just repeating them.

The dialogue is some version of Ultra Generic ad lib. I had a lot of trouble not glazing over anything contained in quotes. Laughably bad.

Normally, when I read something this bad, I just want to beat the author with their own book. This is pathetically bad. It made me want to scream “THERE ARE COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN YOUR AREA. THEY WILL HAVE BEGINNER WRITING CLASSES. EITHER TAKE THEM OR STOP WRITING.”

This book should have never been written. 

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