Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monkeys in the Basement

by Heather
Have you ever picked up the latest book in your favorite series and thought; the person whose name is on the cover did not write this? And I am not talking to you James Patterson fans, because his covers clearly state (in fine print, well below Patterson’s name) that someone else was his “writing partner”.

The other day a customer and I had a discussion about this, namely because the new J.D. Robb (pseudonym/alter ego of Nora Roberts) book was out and we both felt strongly that the last book was not written by Roberts. I am a fan of the "Eve Dallas" series, have been for over 10 years, and have been greatly disappointed by the writing as of late. Okay, I know what you’re thinking; most people would not equate great writing and Nora Roberts, queen of the romantic suspense novel, but give me a chance to explain. I became a fan of Roberts as a teenager, my grandmother had all of her books (even the ones from her Silhouette years) and graciously loaned them to me. I really enjoyed her books, they were entertaining, with surprisingly well-formed characters. I have since evolved and matured in my reading habits (I hope), but retain a fondness for many of her backlist titles, occasionally revisiting them on a rainy day. What I love about the J.D. Robb series is that over the course of several years and a combination of 35 books and novellas you get to know the characters, how they’ll react, think, speak, they’re like old familiar friends. The books develop a cadence, one that is recognizable to anyone familiar with the series and I just didn’t see it in the last book. So, after our discussion I grabbed the newly released Kindred in Death and brought it home to make a judgment.

First thought: Who the h*!# wrote this?!

I don’t want to throw out definite statements (who wants to be sued), but I do not believe it was Roberts. As with her last few books, the characters who have been so well developed over the course of the series, are now flat, their dialogue is forced, unnatural, and not even remotely close to that of earlier books such as my personal favorite, Judgment in Death. This poor writing could not be that of Roberts (I can’t believe you can devolve that much as an author). So, who or what is authoring these books in Robb/Roberts name? My guess, Roberts has a basement full of trained monkeys who have been chained to small desks and tasked with the challenge of continuing a series. That or some Grad school student eager to be in print, despite the lack of recognition, is desperately attempting to write filler for an outlined plot created by Roberts. Let us just hope that this is not so, because undoubtedly that student would get some sort of publishing contract, subjecting us to more one-dimensional characters and flat storylines. I would rather have the series end than being subjected to this hack writing style.

I do want to make something clear here:

Despite this rant I want to urge readers not to be deterred from this series. The last few books aside, the series, which begins with Naked in Death is remarkably innovative, imaginative, and generally enthralling. The plotlines are unique and engaging, the setting hip, futuristic, yet gritty. The characters are human, developing very emotional and human relationships, friendships, and partnerships. They become old friends whom you recognize and enjoy with each book. I suppose the venom, which is so present at the start of this entry, is the great disappointment that these friends, with whom I have been acquainted for the past 10 years, have undergone small personality changes which alter who they have always been. It’s like pod people have taken them over; they might look the same, speak the same, but they are altered and no longer that which made them unique and likable. So, perhaps this might shed a light as to why I would rather have the series end than see these fictional characters who have seemed so real, become two-dimensional parodies of their former written selves.

So, who’s the mysterious culprit, the one altering my favorite characters, and causing me such angst and frustration (I mean come on, I’ve become so emotional about the series that I’m actually blogging about this)? I hope it’s not Roberts (still a fan, read Honest Illusions, one of my much read favorites), but based on the writing quality, I’m going with the monkeys!

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