Bingo Review 21: No Money
I don’t remember the exact circumstance, probably some kind of short term promotion, but Stan Lee’s A Trick of Light was a freebie download for the Kindle, and I kind of wanted to read it, so I downloaded it. The book then sat in my Kindle library for the entire time between its initial release and now. I have to say, finally having gotten to it, I’m glad I didn’t pay anything for this one. I’d have felt a little cheated.
In fairness to Stan Lee, I’m pretty sure he’d died before this book was completed. That said, this book reads very much like a comic book, and that’s not entirely a good thing. The language is kind of dull, the characters and situations are pretty standard, and the pacing is really uneven. It’s like someone wanted to tell a comic book story in novel form, but didn’t know much about the differences between the two modes. I would have hoped the co-author, Kat Rosenfield, would have known better.
The novel starts by alternating between three threads which obviously must eventually intertwine; it takes about half the book for this to happen. Thread one is Nia, who lives some kind of isolated existence with a mysterious controlling yet caring (?) individual called Father. She is pursuing her education, and she wants to learn more about the outside world, but Father is reluctant. Thread two is Cameron, an average You-Tuber wannabe teen who gets struck by lightening and wakes up changed (alert: special powers!). Third is the vengeful Xal on a quest to locate and murder the Inventor who destroyed her planet and its inhabitants. The trying to sneak away from controlling parent, the using powers for mostly good, the romance, the discoveries about various secrets, a mentor death, and the improbable survival of everything only to realize greater threat approaches that follows is all recognizable and mostly not terribly interesting.
Part of my issue with the plot and characters is that they end up being so standard and bland: angsty Peter Parker, I mean Cameron, alien threats and body-snatching, unknown secret organization that knows a lot but not all of what’s going on – including a mad scientist- (X-Men, anyone?), offers of revealing what happened to Cameron’s missing father, Nia’s growing independence and inevitable getting caught, the mind-control; it is all completely expected and not really interesting. Even the interacting of the various threads is predictable; the reveal of who and what the Inventor is/was and how that ties all three threads together has been done before elsewhere.
The writing is a strange mix of first person present, free indirect discourse, and traditional third person narration isn’t confusing so much as it is irritating. If you’re going to use something like present tense and first person perspective, then use it to get into the characters and make them interesting; that does not happen. Free indirect discourse doesn’t work since that works better with a single continuous narrator, and that does not happen here either. It’s a mess of styles, and the general language is so dull that it can’t make up for the uninteresting everything else. For example, “Hours later, Cameron sits in the dark of the basement, his fingers flying over the keyboard as his mind converses with the software, trying to sense the presence of the algorithm Nia was so certain is there.” This kind of thing sounds like someone is trying to turn a comic book panel outline into prose; that’s mostly what’s been done here. It’s just not very interesting or well-done.