Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bibliovile: Trixa For Kids

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Jamaica Me Dead, by Bob Morris
              A successful and good book needs interesting characters, a lived-in setting, and a worthwhile plot. Jamaica Me Dead succeeds on all of these fronts. However, none of them successfully connect together.

              Setting: Jamaica Me Dead takes place, naturally, in Jamaica. It bounces between tourist main streets in places like Montego Bay and Kingston, rural backwaters and jungle paths, and an island resort called Libido. Libido is a fantasy, bawdy, sexual resort, full of people looking to get laid with everyone else all the time. The rest of Jamaica is, well, imagine if TV’s JAG went to Jamaica, and that’s about how it’s portrayed. Every ‘tings airee!
              Plot: Except for a twist that I called on the VERY FIRST PAGE the real plot begins, the plot of JMD does a pretty good job of keeping us moving at a good clip without ever overwhelming us. The twists and turns outside of the big one were enjoyable. It’s got political murder, fraud, blackmail, explosions… it’s pretty good! Just seriously, man, that main twist. A friend of our main character is killed in a car bomb explosion that leaves a major crater and vaporizes the cars. Oh, here’s his wallet, to prove he’s dead and all. Uh, buddy, if his wallet is intact than he is, you idiot. Two hundred and fifty pages later, yup, ohmygosh!
              Characters: The main character was the weakest part of this book. I can’t remember his name and I’m not looking it up. The supporting characters were fine-to-good, however. A girlfriend with a job and a plan outside of the relationship, a seedy, reclusive resort owner sexpot dude, his two children, one an upright politician in a dirty game, the other a struggling rebel fashion artist who chafes at having to rely on her rich father. A couple seedy federal agents, a weird mystical sidekick (?), and a Jamaican driver. Nothing to sneeze at; all seemed developed and connected with each other as well as with our main character, an oasis of character attributes in the Bibliovile desert.
              All three of these segments are good and well, except each piece is undone by the other two. A book with this plot and setting, but a main character who isn’t tied down and straightedge would make a FANTASTIC erotic book, and I don’t even like erotic books. Imagine, trying to solve this murder while constantly embonered and distracted back at home base. Man, the twist perp ending could be one of his favorite bone chums!
              A book with this character and this setting would work great in a comedic novel, a man out of water at an island nookie paradise, struggling to keep sane as vagina is constantly thrown at him and he has to keep it away. By the way, there were several mentions of sex or people having sex in this book, but no engaging in it during our peeks into the character’s lives. What a waste.
              A book with this character and this plot would also work, a man way over his head in political violence, trying to keep beneath it all and just get through. But, like, that could be in Arizona for goodness sakes. Then we could avoid the *waggles hand with the palm to ground* amount of racism that comes from putting patois into writing.
              All in all, I never threw this book, never got mad at this book, never wrote in caps, or shouted, or anything. It was well constructed, well written, and utterly meh. Change one of the three main parts and you’ve got a book I’m recommending. Keep it as it is, and I’m going to forget I read this in two weeks.

The Grimrose Path, by Rob Thurman
              The first page of The Grimrose Path inspires no confidence at all, as it is entirely comprised of five sentence-long words and played out cliches, including, “Life is a trick, and the tricks are lessons in disguise, and I’m a teacher.” Apparently our narrator, and the author who writes her thoughts, are both incapable of picking one metaphor and sticking to it -- they have keep adding in additional metaphors until we’ve lost track of the thread completely. And that, funnily enough, is a pretty apt metaphor for The Grimrose Path.

              This book centers on Trixa, who is a trickster, and owns a bar named Trixsta. Say that five times fast. Trixa used to be a shifter, but then she temporarily lost her powers, so now she’s living out the next five years as a regular human. Temporarily human along with her is her business partner and friend, Leo, who is actually the Norse god Loki currently living in the body of a Native American man who can turn into a raven at will. Trixa’s two best friends are an ex-demon named Griffin and an ex-angel named Zeke, who are in love.
              At the beginning of the book, Trixa is confronted by longtime rival Eligos, a high-level demon who enlists Trixa’s help in figuring out what has been killing all of the demons lately. We have to wonder why Trixa cares, because she and her friends kill demons for fun. But apparently she does care, because she gets involved in the mystery, the solving of which involves tricking Lucifer himself, playing checkers with a Titan named Cronus, stealing artifacts from a Los Angeles museum, pulling a gun on a septuagenarian medium, and throwing an intoxicated Thor out of a moving vehicle. This book is .... a lot.
             That’s one of the reasons why the above metaphor works so well. Not only can Rob Thurman not make up her mind about what figures of speech she wants to use in her exposition, she also can’t make up her mind about what plot elements she wants to include in her book, so she winds up using all of them. Neither the exposition nor the plot benefit from this method. The book is just exhausting to read. There’s so much happening at all times that it’s hard to know what to care about and pay attention to, and what to just ignore.
              For example, in the middle of the book, we spend several chapters finding a missing Griffin, defeating his captors, sitting in the hospital while he heals, and sorting through the argument he’s having with Zeke. Several chapters later, we realize that all of that was ancillary to the plot, and doesn’t have any bearing on Trixa’s plan to stop the demon killer. It’s essentially just a time waster until Rob Thurman decided she was ready to move on with the real plot, the rising action of which lasts for approximately four pages.
              You got that right: four pages. That’s the entire length of time it takes for Trixa to lure Cronus to the desert, wage a battle of united angels and demons against him, stab him with a metaphysical water sword, kill him, and work out her interpersonal situation with Eligos. This was particularly frustrating, not because I wanted more of the rising action (at that point, I was practically begging for the book to be over), but because we had wasted at least twenty times that page length on the absolute drivel of Trixa’s thought process.
              The exposition of this book tries to be witty, snappy, quick, and clever, and it fails miserably, in a manner that is so over-the-top that I almost melted my husband’s insides with my rage stares. The sentences vacillate between discussions of the events that are currently happening to Trixa lamenting her recent weight gain to ruminations about her past as a trickster to complaints about the tourists in Las Vegas. It’s indecipherable. It’s hard to give a good picture of the craziness of the writing without including full paragraphs, but here are a few sentences (that occur IN A ROW in this book) to give you somewhat of an idea: “Except for geese. Geese feared and respected no one. No ankle, human or otherwise, was safe. It could be even Titans like Cronus bowed to their pure, feathered evil. It was worth thinking about. And I did as I thought about other equally ridiculous things. I liked ridiculous things. I avoided the pond and jogged to the mesquite flats for a real run. Once there had been homeless people there, but the police had run them off some time ago and I often found the flats empty except for jackrabbits and ground squirrels. It was quiet company, although at least once during every run a chipmunk tried to commit suicide by diving under my feet. They weren’t bright, but they were pretty to look at ... Much like Leo’s dates.”

              THAT IS BONKERS. If I wanted to listen to the incessant ramblings of a high-maintenance person who didn’t realize that no one cared, I would go to the bars in a college town. This is supposed to be a fantasy action book; please leave out the commentary on chipmunks and geese. She just jumps from one thought to the next without any semblance of a train of thought, and we’re expected not only to follow, but to be interested in it. That is just beyond me.
My favorite example, and the one I’ll leave you with to close out my review, is this, “I was justice. Eli was only Hannibal Lector crossed with a T. rex -- a sociopathic carnivore. I killed the wicked, if necessary. He would kill anyone and anything. But he was gone before I could tell him so. Not that I would’ve bothered and not that he would’ve cared. No, I wouldn’t have bothered and he wouldn’t have cared, but I would’ve cared... a little.

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