Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Okay, so I'm finally going to get around to writing down why I didn't like Criminal Macabre (I'm not going to link to it at Amazon again; once was enough).

A while back, I read another book by Niles (scroll down to the entry on 30 Days of Night), and I didn't like that one either. I probably should have learned my lesson from that, but I figured that my dislike of the first book was just me being anal-retentive. Now that I've read more by him, I have concluded that he's a sloppy writer & needs an editor who will call him on it.

First I'll go into the nit-picky thing that bothered me about this book. At one point, it is revealed that a sample of bubonic plague has been stolen from a lab. People are understandably concerned about this, but one of the scientists from the lab tries to calm them down by explaining that this particular strain of the plague hasn't killed anybody since it wiped out a Romanian village sometime in the 14th century. And that's all they say. There isn't even an attempt to explain how they could possibly know that. It would have been simple to stick in some techno-babble excuse, but no. We're left to wonder if a group of medieval epidemiologists found the sample & stored it safely for nearly 700 years or what.

My other major complaint about the book is about how it is structured. It opens with the main character being interrogated by the police. What we see is his recount of the events leading up to his arrest. That's fine; it's a perfectly good (if maybe a little cliched) way of telling a story. The trouble is, after about 16 pages, Niles just drops the format. Until the end of the book (when we finally return to the police holding cell), there are occasional captions of the character explaining things, but there is no sense that he's talking to anybody in particular, much less a hostile cop who would have no reason to believe his story of vampires & ghouls.*

Niles drops the flashback format because he wants a scene where the main character isn't present. There are several of these, but there is never any mention of the main character figuring out or being told what happens in these scenes. So how does he know this stuff? I don't know if Niles just doesn't care or if he doesn't realize that there is a problem.

I like the ideas behind Niles' stories, but he gets careless with the details, and he needs somebody to call him on it when he does.

*Also, this book is a collection of a 5-issue comic series. So for people who bought the individual issues, there is a gap of months between when the story is set up and when it finally comes back around to the present day. And anybody who missed the first issue would have no idea of the situation until they reached the final issue. There should have been reminders that the whole thing was a flashback at the beginning and end of each issue.

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