"…or we can be lycans!"

five minute book-review!

1. jonathan maberry, bad moon rising. the third in the trilogy with ghost road blues and dead man’s song. not the greatest last volume in a trilogy you’ll ever read. i think maberry could have told this story much more effectively in two volumes. reading rising, i kept feeling like the characters were just repeating information among themselves; each set of characters — good guys, bad guys, good guys over here without knowledge of the good guys over there, ditto bad guys, and null guys — had to learn the same piece of information, discuss it, chew it to death, and then move on to the next shred of evidence. all this in spite of the fact that the reader, being a clever person and, possibly, well-versed in this kind of horror novel, figured it out pages ago and has been patiently waiting for the progressively dumber characters to figure it the f&%k out. i really enjoyed blues and song precisely because maberry didn’t treat the reader as though s/he were stupid but he slipped up pretty badly in rising.
the pace goes all to hell — the first two-thirds dragged and then the last third shot by so fast that, had it been a movie, i’d’ve been thinking, ‘wow, the fight choreography/special effects/acting must really suck here ’cause they’re moving too fast for me to see it!’ there are some shocking, terrifying sequences — i reference particularly a scene in the last third of the book where two of our protagonists fall into the basement of the house of our big bad guy. you really don’t want to know what he keeps in the cellar. really. you don’t. but you’re going to find out anyway. maberry does occasionally get confused between blood/gore/squick and what is actually frightening but that’s so often a matter of taste and he does both well that i don’t want to complain about it too much. what’s slightly more frustrating is his habit of stepping out of the action of the action scenes — which he writes really well with a great eye for an unusual detail that pulls the whole scene into focus — to tell you what the characters are feeling or thinking. in the middle of a fight scene, we don’t really need to know that our “hero” is feeling cold and sick and nauseated. it’s okay. we’ll take it as read and you can catch us up on it later. right now, we’re worried about the fanged nasty that’s going to fall on him from the ceiling…
maberry also falls prey to making the whole thing unnecessarily complicated. by the end of song, we’re fairly sure we’ve got a reasonably straightforward set of supernatural baddies: vampires and werewolves. some of the vamps are smarter than others; some are basically mindless killers; and we’ve got one clearly over-arching uber-bad guy. okay, good. we’ve got the right idea. and then by half-way through rising, we’ve got psychic vampires, psychic werewolves, dhampyrs, ancient vampires, ‘fangheads,’ vampire kings, evil gods, possession, demonic spirits, ghosts, and a whole range of other issues i won’t even go into. all of which turn out to be almost completely unnecessary. while i often have issues with stephen king — having hated him cordially for most of my life and only really started to read his stuff in the last three or four years thanks to a friend who swore up and down that the dark tower series really was that awesome (and it is) — at least in salem’s lot, which maberry’s trilogy is absolutely a child of, he kept it simple. master vampire; spawn. there we go. end of story. simple, threatening, murderous. all done.
the only other thing i wanted to note is that the female characters in the book are, by the end, totally pathetic. if the main woman had said, “but i’m pregnant!” one more time, i was going to vote for the lead vampire to rip her throat out on the spot. it was a terrible excuse for not putting her into play as an actual, y’know, character. and there’s a scene in the beginning that is just a total rip from dracula in the most painfully bad way where all the men silently realise they are willing to die for this one woman (better you than me) and all i could think was, ‘mina was more kick-ass than you. any day of the week.’
all of this is not to say that wasn’t fun to read. it was. it’s just that, by the end of the third book, i wished there was a little less to read. it’s sad when the trilogy is a slow downward slide when there is clearly the talent in place that could have made it a great upward rollercoaster ride.
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