Monday, October 27, 2008

Is it really worth all this chasing?

Title: The Chase
Author: Clive Cussler
Bookmark: one of thirteen thousand election-related fliers I've received in the mail over the past month.

Years ago, when my brother got home from school, he would watch Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego?, not because he was fascinated with geography, but because he liked to absorb as much radiation as possible from the television to ensure his mutations remained stable. I watched because we lived in a one-room shack, but I liked that I usually knew the answers. On each episode, there was a segment called The Chase which was always introduced by Rockapella singing "Oooooooooh, the chaaaaaase!" Every time I looked at the cover of this book, that three-word jingle ran through my head before I could start reading. Sometimes, it was the most compelling part of reading.

I've read two other Cussler books, and while they're exciting enough to make me keep reading, like Dean Koontz and Louis L'Amour, they often spend far too much time in Popcorn territory, and are supported by lots of WTF moments (like using quantum teleportation to fill a briefcase with oil and when Cussler himself appears in The World's Sweetest Yacht to save Dirk Pitt and the female lead). The Chase continues in that proud tradition.

Sure, I enjoyed reading it. I like any good heist story, and this one's also a western. Isaac Bell, an agent for the Van Dorn Detective Agency (an obvious parallel to the Pinkertons--even the motto is similar), is assigned the case of the Butcher Bandit, a daring and ruthless killer who single-handedly robs banks all over the west, kills all witnesses, and vanishes without a trace. Bell is Van Dorn's best agent, and as a typical Cussler hero, is suave, charming, crazy rich, and dashingly handsome to the point that every woman who sees him immediately swoons or entertains thoughts of humping his superior detective brains out.

Other Cussler standards are present: despite three chase scenes (posse vs. wagon, car vs. train, train vs. slightly faster train) across western deserts, divers are necessary to retrieve the wreckage of the train in the west's largest lake. Yeah, the train was at the bottom of a lake. That was necessary to use divers. Clive loves his divers. He also loves anything with an engine (cars, trains, motorcycles, bad-ass boats) or anything that floats (Viking longboats, high-tech yachts, the Titanic, paddle-wheel ferries, etc.), and describes them with a classic car enthusiast's loving detail.

But Clive? Honestly? I need to make a suggestion. Next time you send a book out to the stores, have your editor or someone hire a proofreader to check for continuity. I can keep track of an awful lot of characters if they're unique enough, and you do OK there, but it's a royal bitch when their names change. One kid was only in scene, and for one line in the middle, his name suddenly changed to Warren, then back to whatever the hell it first was before he was sent on his merry way twenty bucks richer. And names aren't the only inconsistency. Get it straight, man. I love to read crime stories, but it's confusing and hard to figure things out on your own when the author feeds you inconsistent facts. The last book I read so badly in need of proofreading was an advance copy that was hopefully released before a proofreader okayed the final release. They had an excuse; The Chase really doesn't.

On a side note, for anyone else who watched Carmen Sandiego and now watches too much police procedural, this is a good NSFW spoof of both.

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posted by reyn at 11:55 AM


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