I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad). The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.
16/9 - I just can't get this review started. I've had a number of pages marked for discussion for days now, but every time I find the time to get started writing I suddenly decide I need to do something else (on or off the internet) and I never end up getting to the review. I figured I'd give writing by hand in my journal a go and just pen to paper and see where I end up. So far I've got: a lot more mistakes (no delete button) and my hand writing is barely legible (even to me), but that's not what I need. I need conclusions about Dark Run. I guess an important thing to note is that I very nearly gave up on page 97, but a fight and an interesting development in one of the character's backgrounds saved the book at the last minute. For a sci-fi set in space surprisingly little happened. The previous 96 pages had all been exposition and 'get to know you' dialogue, I was quite bored and with a pile of books 17 books tall (that's just physical and just counting the library books) I felt quite justified in saying that I refused to waste my time any further on this book. One line saved Dark Run from the DNF pile "Hey! Mongrel!". When I read that I thought "Ooh! What's found Apirana and what are they going to do about their discovery?" and then when Jenna revealed some mysterious skills I became even more interested and no longer felt like DNFing. So, my message to anyone who finds the first 100 pages boring, it does get better if you can make it past page 97. To be continued...
Oh, those pages I had marked for discussion? The first page was 16 - "...to wobble like an shivering epileptic...". First, that metaphor? That's just a silly metaphor, as my mum put it when she heard it. Of course, that's a matter of opinion. What's not a matter of opinion is the erroneous use of 'an' instead of 'a'. The second was page 117 - "...laden with enough sulkiness to float a battleship." I don't get that metaphor at all. How does sulkiness float anything? The way that phrase is used it sounds like a bad thing, but isn't floating what you want your battleship to be doing? It's better than sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Very ill-considered metaphor. To be continued...
Later on page 220 - I'm not a fan of the way Brooks tells us that a character won't do something and then gives us all the reasons why doing this particular thing would be a bad idea. This paragraph for example - "There'd been no question of fighting, of course: one hit from a shockstick could drop a man, and two would do even for Apirana. If he'd pulled a gun then he'd have likely had to shoot all three guards dead, and he'd had enough of shooting security personnel for doing their job. Besides, any stray shots into the crowd could have sparked a riot which would have sealed their death warrant, quite apart from any injuries or fatalities they might inflict. Most importantly, though, he had to speak to Nana Bastard, and he had a greater chance of doing that as an obliging prisoner than he did either dead or having killed three of her guards." By the end of that paragraph I felt like saying "Enough already, you had me convinced that fighting was a bad idea when you mentioned the shocksticks, you didn't have to keep going on and on with excuse after excuse as to why it wasn't possible." If I didn't know better I'd think that paragraph had come from a guilty mind who feels ashamed that they didn't put up a fight, and feels they have to explain themselves to people who see them as a coward.
This isn't the first, or last, time Brooks uses this almost apologetic writing technique. Throughout the story, no matter whose point of view we're reading from, characters defend their choices over and over, even more minor choices that really don't need to be defended. All this defending is unnecessary, there's no court judging the characters on their bravery, or lack thereof. To be continued...
Later on page 251 - '"You alright there?" Rourke asked over her shoulder. Jenna nodded, but the rain-slicked strands of red-blonde hair sticking to her face suggested otherwise.' Why doe her hair being stuck to her face indicate she's not alright? If she was alright would the rain not have stuck her hair to her face? Would being alright make her hair impervious to the rain? This sentence makes no sense.
17/9 - So many more marked pages, so many it's a bit disappointing actually.
Page 255 - '...memorised several different possibles routes...'
Page 281 - 'The forewoman approached, a stern-faced lady with a blunt fringe and hair darker than the night sky... Darker than the night sky? Really? That's a bit much for a character who has no name and is never seen again.
Page 316 - 'She gave Jenna a smile which might have been made of spun sugar judging by how fragile it appeared.' That is another silly metaphor. I think Brooks is just trying too hard. The way he describes is way too flowery for the type of book he's writing, plus he's not consistent. The descriptions are mostly normal and then out of the blue he'll toss in a phrase that would sit better in a contemporary literature novel than a sci-fi.
Page 327 - '...trapped in a non-too-large shuttle.... That's just awkward. Why not write 'not' rather than 'non'?
Page 352 - '"On target!" she muttered, unconsciously giving it the same emphasis as Chiquita Martinez, ever-beaming hostess of the popular Serenitan game show of the same title.' Why on Earth do we need (or care!) to know about Chiquita Martinez and her game show? We never meet Chiquita, she's not mentioned again, what's the point of bringing her up to begin with? Why can't Jenna simply mutter "On target" without the random association to a fake game show hostess?
Why is the epilogue an epilogue? It's set seconds after the end of the last chapter, why not simply make it the last chapter? The definition of an epilogue is a comment or conclusion to what has happened. I really don't think that's what this epilogue is doing. Because it's not set any appreciable distance in the future I don't see how it can properly comment on the story or serve as a conclusion to what has happened. I would want to see an epilogue to this story set a few months later, after the crew has reached their destination, the Rassvet System. I would want to read about the things the crew were doing with their newfound wealth and whether they were all staying together and going to continue flying.
According to the accolades on the back of the book Luke Scull says 'Dark Run is a thrill-ride of non-stop action, wise-crackery and adventure' and Stephen Deas says this is A fast and wry SF adventure full of the deviousness and wit of Firefly'. I'm sorry, but in my opinion none of that is true. It could be some of those things with some work on the dialogue and phrasing, and more careful editing, but as it is now it's thrill-free, wisecrack-free, and despite all Brooks' attempts only resembles Firefly in the most basic of ways. Brooks is no Joss Whedon.
Dark Run isn't a bad book, but it is only average (precisely 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 for GR) thanks to everything I've already mentioned, plus the lovely little message Brooks left us in the acknowledgements. He says "If you didn't buy it, (the book) but you enjoyed it, maybe consider buying the next one? Cat food and pre-frozen rodents don't grow on trees, you know, and I have mouths to feed." That pissed me off, just a tad. I feel like he's intimating that if I didn't buy it I must have acquired it illegally. Maybe that's not what he was trying to say, but that's how it comes across. Should I put that down as another editing error? Well, after not being able to get this review started I seem to have written a mini-novel of my own. So, I think that's enough from me.