Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Adventures of Crazy Liddy

Clayton J. Callahan
Completed 9/12/2015, Reviewed 9/14/2015
2 stars

Whenever I read a space opera or an action book, I always need to preface it with the statement that I generally don’t like these types of books, although I am starting to appreciate them more.  I do much better watching a movie of this sub-genre than reading it.  Fortunately, this book was short enough that it kept my attention and I could actually appreciate that it was a rather fun action-adventure novel.  Liddy is a smuggler.  Usually extremely cautious, she has one slip and is sent to a prison planet for twenty years.  After three years, the governor asks her to participate in a rescue mission to find her missing-in-action son in exchange for a full pardon.   Guess who’s on the mission:  Agent Reed who busted her in the first place.  Together with a crusty pilot and a couple of uber-religious telepathic engineer aliens, they must travel to an enemy solar system and fight ugly blue aliens to find the governor’s son and win Liddy her freedom.  Unfortunately, amid all this fun, I had some issues that made reading the book a less than pleasant experience.

The problem I had with the book was the writing style.  The book is told in third person past tense, but it reads as if an average person was recounting a story in a loud bar.  This level of informality of the prose made it a tough read for me.  I often had difficulty wrapping my inner reading mouth around many of the phrases in the prose.  I accept informality in dialogue or in a character’s mind, but I find that the rest of the narration needed to contain less colloquialisms and more formal word choices.  It would have helped offset and emphasize the informality of the characters.

There’s a sense that this book has the intended audience of a thirteen year old boy, or a reader looking for a teenage male action movie experience.  The descriptions of Liddy and her clothing often felt very self-conscious, like how I remember my friends talking about girls when I was a teenage boy, and how I tried to mimic them.  At the same time, Liddy is a very powerful, self-actualized female character.  Most of the other female supporting characters were powerful as well.  There’s definitely good intention with the portrayal of women, but the obsession with Liddy’s blond hair, makeup, bras, and cling pants was almost embarrassing.

There’s also an awkwardness to the approach to religion in the prose.  When it pops up, it’s very obvious.  It never feels organic to the characters.  It feels manually injected into the dialogues like propaganda, as if the target audience was Christian thirteen year old boys.  At the same time, along with the strong portrayal of women, there’s positive portrayal of other religions, races, and sexual orientations.  In fact, I was really moved by the gay theme towards the end.  The author’s intentions are excellent, but I think it all needed to be executed better in the writing style.

My last thought is that this book has a lot of action stuffed in a very short package.  The style and tone, and perhaps the cover art, made me think that this might have been an excellent graphic novel.  The right illustrator could have smoothed the clunky prose and made made the themes like religion and race seem more organic to the characters and ironically, less cartoonish.

I have to give this book two out of five stars.  There are a lot of problems with it, but there’s a lot of good intentions.  I think if it were workshopped in a critical environment or made into a graphic novel, it could have smoothed a lot of its issues, making it more palatable for an adult reader.  But I’d like to see how a teen boy would enjoy the book, just to prove my theory that he’s the target audience.

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