cazrolime: Text: "not so much writing as making a big mess with a pen" (other . not so much writing)
Corpus Callosum ([personal profile] cazrolime) wrote2012-02-16 10:33 pm

Review: Fever Dream by Preston & Child

Fever Dream (Pendergast, #10)Fever Dream by Douglas Preston

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Fever Dream could have been a good book. The central premise -- that Pendergast finds out his dead wife was murdered, seeks revenge on her killers, and goes on to discover secrets she kept from him -- is intriguing, and there are a few good set-pieces, such as a car chase through a Louisiana swamp. And Preston & Child aren't terrible authors; I enjoyed the two Diogenes-featuring novels in this series, albeit only by ignoring a lot of extraneous words that were probably meant to sound clever.

But I literally couldn't finish this book. I forget exactly how far I was when I gave up, but at some point after the reveal of the painting built up as so horrifying that nobody would talk about it, I put it down and haven't been able to bring myself to pick it up again. There are just so many things to read that interest me more, such as ingredients lists on the backs of cereal boxes. Speaking of that painting, did anyone reading this actually get to the reveal and feel that the painting deserved its build-up? I can't have been the only one who didn't buy that every man, woman and child who'd looked at it would had been shocked into lifelong silence.

Part of the problem is that the writing is so lazy. A lot of the novel's flaws -- such as sentences just an edit away from fluency, and inconstancies like a character having a New Zealand accent in one chapter and an Australian one in another -- seem like they came out of a lack of effort rather than a lack of talent. And the story is full of flat bit characters who have no personality besides a duty to shove the plot along, and clichés presented with a completely straight face. I couldn't stop laughing when Pendergast and D'Agosta were driving through creepy skeletal trees towards a mansion, and the mansion was silhouetted by a bolt of lightning that must have taken a wrong turn on its way to a Hammer horror movie. The Pendergast universe seems to operate on the rule that if the authors think it's cool, it doesn't have to make sense -- and while turning off your brain to enjoy something isn't inherently bad, this book pretty much requires it all the way through, which is likely to annoy anyone who cares that a bullet shouldn't throw somebody backwards into a wall.

As for the characters, I couldn't stand them. They just weren't likeable for me at all. The authors can't go five minutes without reminding the reader that Pendergast is handsome, aquiline, cultured and frighteningly intelligent. When he quotes the classics you can taste the authors' self-satisfaction, and when he talks you start to feel sorry for their thesaurus. And the reverse is true for D'Agosta: he's working class and A Regular Guy and it must be true because the reader is constantly told it. He'll be swigging a Bud while his upmarket partner delicately sips from a glass of 300-year-old Château de Fancier Than You, which will be described with a loving obsession I haven't seen since the feast scenes in Brian Jacques' Redwall books.

Wordiness isn't a problem for me (I love Tolkien to pieces), but this book has words for the sake of words instead of using them for interesting description or anything like that. Smart or cultured or eloquent protagonists don't automatically get my back up, but when a character is eloquent like a thirteen-year-old in a wolf roleplay on Proboards, I can't even start to take them seriously. Clichés don't piss me off inherently, but to throw them prefabricated into a would-be serious drama and expect them to still be scary or emotionally engaging just stinks of laziness on the part of the authors.

Several of my friends absolutely adore this book, and it was recommended to me as if it had descended from Heaven on a moonbeam to bring peace and love to the world of literature. I was looking forward to reading it. I just wish I'd actually liked it.

View all my reviews

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