Aug 10, 2011

Shark in the jungle

For a while there, I was a fan of James Patterson.  You know, the guy who wrote all those Alex Cross novels that were bestsellers.  After the first three or four of them, I started to get a little sick of the guy.  Besides the Cross novels, he was writing 2 or 3 other books each year.  Extremely prolific.  But his writing began to suffer in the process.

And let's face it...he wasn't a great writer to begin with.  And maybe it was the fault of the editor not doing their job properly.  Who knows.  All I DO know is that I started noticing mistakes, poor grammar and blatant plot screw-ups pretty soon after he began churning out all that work.  So I stopped reading him.  I figured if he (or his editor) couldn't spare the reader the time to spit out a well-written product, then I couldn't spare the time to support his work.

The same thing happened with Clive Cussler at some point as well.  For me, at least.  I mean, Cussler is formulatic to a fault.  But it's that formula that makes his Dirk Pitt stuff so entertaining.  On a beach.  In the summertime.  But it got to a point where I was finishing the book in my head after only reading a small fraction of it.  Not a lot of surprises there.

Lately, I've been reading a bunch of Lee Child.  His Jack Reacher novels.  I'm currently up to "The Enemy", a prequel novel set in 1990 published in 2004.

And I'm just now starting to get sick of his formula.  And some of Child's obvious weaknesses as a writer are starting to show.  Making his characters seem oh-so-prescient by having them predict the future military struggles in the Balkans and Iraq.  Yeah...Reacher is a God amongst men, but he really didn't need to make him any more omnipotent than he already was by using simple hindsight. C'mon...

And then there is this little passage about the M1A1 Abrams tank:

The M1A1 Abrams is like a shark, evolved to a point of absolute perfection.  It is the undisputed king of the jungle.

Now, I don't even want to get started on giving the word "perfection" a qualifier like "absolute".  Not sure the ideal of perfection can have degrees, but whatever.  I'm sure I've done the same thing many times over.

No, it's the mixed metaphor of the tank being "like a shark" and "it is the undisputed king of the jungle".  OK, the first one is a simile and the second one is a metaphor.  Whatever.  But my point is this.  How does Dell (or Random House or whomever the publisher might be) let something like that get published in the first place?  I mean, it's a simple matter of replacing "jungle" with "ocean" or "seas".  Something!

Ugh...I put down the book as soon as I read those two sentences.  I'll probably pick it up a bit later on tonight.  Because I really want to see what happens.

But Lee Child?  You're on notice, son.  You had better get your shit together.

Or else!


sybil law said...

I have Tripwire on my shelf, and I know what you're saying. They all get a little nauseating after a while, in my opinion. I'm a fan of Nelson Demille, too - but his last book really kind of stunk. I don't even remember the name of it. But little things like that bother me, too.

Dave2 said...

James Patterson: I didn't really have an opinion on him, but enjoyed his books enough that I bought a book called "Roses are Red" for a very long trans-Pacific flight. Little did I know (BECAUSE THEY DON'T TELL YOU) was that the book was PART ONE OF TWO!! This cheap-ass money-grab for half of a story sucked ass so hard that I basically said Patterson could go f#@% himself and I would never read another one of his shitty books. I never have.

Clive Cussler: I was a huge, huge Cussler fan through his first several books. Sure they were formulaic, but they were good reads. But then Cussler started "collaborating" with other writers and I grew bored with the same old thing.

And now I have to start reading Lee Child... BECAUSE JUNGLE SHARKS ARE TOTALLY SHARK EXTREME!

Slyde said...

i'm ashamed to say that i have read ALL, and continue to read, James Patterson's work.

i honestly dont know why. He has made Alex Cross a bumbling slow-witted simpleton now, and the women's murder club books arent much better.

Verdant Earl said...

Sybil - I've read several of DeMille's John Corey books, and a couple of others. They are okay. Eh.

Dave2 - YEah, Cussler really doesn't write on his own anymore. I've read some of the collaborations. Meh. And now that I think of it, jungle shark IS pretty cool!

Slyde - Ugh...really? He is just a complete waste.

Avitable said...

I think a lot of authors get a little stagnant in the middle. Child's books get better, though, so they're worth persevering. His last two were fantastic, and I just went through and re-read the entire series in about a week.

Verdant Earl said...

Adam - Does it bother you that he goes from writing them in the 3rd person to the 1st person and back to 3rd person from book to book? I don't know why he can't just stick to a perspective.

Avitable said...

Not at all. I think he uses whatever perspective he needs to tell the story, and sometimes an omniscient pov is mandatory.

badgerdaddy said...

Paterson succeeds for the same reason that shit-awful hack Dan Brown does - every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. It's books for people what don't like to read. Short chapters, simplistic plots, small words. I fucking loathe that guy. I don't know him, but his work sucks arse. Compare him to, say, Dennis Lehane or Sara Paretsky, and the utter lack of talent or ability to give a character any depth shines long and bright.

I'm just saying.

I've read all the Jack Reacher novels, and may never read another. He's the book equivalent of Superman, and we all know Superman is dull as all fuck because he can't be beaten. Unless you introduce a crappy plot device like Kryptonite.