For Week 6, I read Ghost of a Smile, by Simon R. Green. I was quite sure when I picked it up that it was the first in the series, but apparently it is the second. Irritating; I don’t like jumping in mid-series, and I consider anything other than the first book “mid-series.” This is not the first time I’ve had this problem with Simon R. Green’s books, trying to figure out what order to buy them in. Now that I have a smartphone I can look it up while I’m in the store, but the usual indicators on the book itself are, for some strange reason, misleading or absent. I can’t tell if I’m an idiot, or if this is a publisher problem.
I had a bit of trouble starting this book, I’ll be honest. I realize the cover blurbs say the dialogue is snappy, but “eat shit and die” never struck me as particularly witty, yet there it is on page five. Yes, you’re very cutting edge, having your lady character swear. Especially a “gamine thin,” “pretty enough in a conventional way,” librarian-looking technical expert. According to the cover, she’s a brunette Rebecca Romaijn, only poutier. (Hooray, publishers who order book covers without paying much attention to the content.) ANYWAY. I’m being petty. Sorry. It drew me out of the narrative strongly enough to make me put the book down three different times.
The whole thing felt like a role-playing game that the GM (game master) decided to turn into a book. I like role-playing games. I like good stories. I’ve been known to write vignettes involving the characters of whatever game I happen to be in, just to stretch the ol’ cranial muscles and get to know my character better. However, I would never submit that for publication (even if I happened to be the GM). It just doesn’t fit in a book, unless you change the characters to fit better, which usually breaks the magic of a communal story. Instead, there was scene after scene of characters standing about, throwing quips, arguing pettily, discussing which sledgehammer to throw at the big bad standing there patiently in front of them all, and from which angle and how hard. Green actually meta’d this a little in the final scene, where the horrible evil creature stands patiently for the better part of ten minutes waiting for the heroes to make up their minds about what they do. This is fine in a role-playing game, where the players argue with each other whether to throw a car at it or use their mystical powers (or run screaming). In a book, it undermines the horror, the importance, the seriousness.
I enjoyed Green’s Nightside series, of the books I have read (there are lots), but I didn’t go out and search out every book in the series, either. On the other hand, it’s set in a strange, illogical world and strange, illogical things happen. It also only has one real main character to make all the decisions, so there isn’t the feeling that a council is trying to write the book. I don’t imagine I’ll be pursuing the Ghost Hunter series further.