Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finished with Dead To Me by Anton Strout

Finished reading Anton Strout's Dead To Me, the first book of the Simon Canderous Urban Fantasy series. While I have the next three books I don't know if I have the stomach to read the next book let alone the rest of the series.

From the author's site antonstrout.com:
Book 1 in the continuing adventures of Simon Canderous Welcome to the Department of Extraordinary Affairs Other Division- New York's answer to the underfunded world of paranormal investigation. It’s a job caught up in red tape, memos, and office politics, but its becoming par for the course for recent recruit Simon Canderous. After a life of petty crime and twenty four years of watching his power of psychometry—the ability to divine information solely by touching an object—destroy any chance of a real relationship, he’s joined the forces of Good hoping to gain some control. But when the mysterious ghost of a recently dead woman shows up at the Lovecraft Cafe, he and his mentor must figure out how she fits into a nefarious plot involving the cultists rights movement, a large wooden fish, and the forces of Darkness crushing on him.
You may have a strong grasp of grammar and a decent vocabulary and still manage to create a disappointing book. This was a hard book to get through. I didn't have to stop and guess the authour's intention when parsing a sentence, or halt at a misspelled word or anything like that. Dead To Me passes the technical aspect of writing.
I found the story simplistic and flawed. The protagonist starts with valuable skills and experience, does a couple of random semi-interesting things that more or less leads to a resolution of the basic conflict. The basic point A to point B plot could have been tighter and more original and the description of New York City could have been punchier, but where the book fails is in creating believable characters.
Even though I hated him for his clear headedness, Connor was right
Annoyed by his clear headedness makes sense, even angered can be believed; but hated? Strong emotional outbursts flare and are extinguished without a valid explanation. Rage, love, despondence, all the extremes of emotion are portrayed with little to no reason. Pretty well every character in the book suffers from a lack of consistency and depth.
Relieved that I didn’t have to smack anyone’s bitch up, I waited for Connor to join me at the door.
Strained attempts at "hip" street slang was indicative of the overall failure to supply a unique voice and believable personality to the characters. The character with the British accent was particularly flat.
... was like being caught in a Dead Head’s hair
Anyone with a little knowledge of the Grateful Dead know that its Deadhead. A little bit of research can do a world of wonder. The first line of the Wikipedia page, however, says either one is permissible but the full article only uses Deadhead. Overall the book felt poorly researched leading to a shallow world.
Strained metaphors, flat two-dimensional characters, 'witless' witty repartee, and a story that is both humorless and undramatic. I can say that I value reading this book just so I can appreciate how hard it is to write a good genre novel. I picked up the book because I read a post by Partrick Rothfuss (Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear) that praised his friend Anton Strout. I didn't realize that the emphasis was likely on friendship more than an enthusiasm for the book.
All the negativity aside, I did manage to get through the book fairly quickly. The rest of the Simon Canderous series may be quite good. I may eventually pick up the second book.