Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Review of Regina's Song
Author: David and Leigh Eddings
Genre: Murder Mystery (?) with some stuff that could possibly be inferred to be hypothetical supe elements (?).
Zero. I would have liked to go into the negatives here, in fact.
Description: Regina and Renata are truly identical twins. They are so strikingly alike, even their mother can't tell them apart. Since their DNA is identical and their infant footprint records were lost by the hospital, no one can be sure which is which.
This doesn't bother the twins. In fact, they're inseparable--until one of the young women is murdered. The other has no memory of the event, no idea who she is. In her near-total amnesia, she can remember only family friend Mark, who has always been a surrogate big brother to the twins. And Mark finds himself fearing that the effects of the trauma don't end with amnesia, for now a series of vicious murders terrorizes Seattle, accompanied by the howl of wolves....
From the description, this book sounds like a zinger, right? I mean, what more do you want? Identical twins so identical that they frequently swop roles without anyone knowing! Their personalities so entwined that it's impossible even for them to say where one ends and the other begins! Then one of them is murdered!
I mean, the possibilities here for good, compelling fiction (with or without supernatural elements - although I obviously prefer with) are virtually endless.
To my vast disappointment, however, the book is not only composed entirely out of stale prose, canned dialogue, pre-packed stereotypes and cardboard flat characters, but there is just about no plot at all. The surviving twin gets released from a mental hospital because she wants to attend university; suddenly a mysterious spates of killings with victims that are known for their criminality turn up. Whodunnit?
That's basically it, I'm very sorry to say.
The premise and mystery of the twins and their twinhood and how the loss of it affects the one left behind is just not explored at all. Instead, it's basically a revenge story (which you already knew, right? I mean, do you need spoiler tags to know that the "murder mystery" part of the novel is the surviving twin hunting down the dead twin's killer, killing anyone she thinks it may have been coz they deal drugs sometimes until she actually gets the right guy?) told from the incredibly distant point of view of a person who is a family friend of the parents of the surviving twin.
So through the eyes of Mark we follow Renata, the surviving twin, as she attempts to reintegrate in society. Mark is a postgraduate in English Lit, and at the beginning of the story he finds a student house filled with FIVE PEOPLE JUST LIKE HIM.
I'm dead serious.
Sure, three of them are girls and they all study different thingies, but they all agree on everything all the time, they use the exact same dialogue and phrases as the other characters, and even the same conversational tone! Constantly! It's like one person talking to himself, that person being the Prototypical Eddings Creation Tee Em, which is a smart-ass wannabe comedian with... no, that's about it.
They all hold exactly the same views on just about everything, although it's just damn convenient that one of them is a philosopher, who can ask very deep, yo questions about the nature of personality and morality without ever really discussing these things, since everyone agrees with everything instantly.
Also, luckily one of them is a lawyer, who can help Mark and the Surviving Twin(TM) out when legal troubles arise in a way which everyone agrees with and is perfectly happy with, despite it being, in my view, ridiculously unethical and immoral. Also, luckily one of them has a brother on the police force, very handily getting all the inside info that help them figure out who's committing the murders and how to get that person out of this damn mess they made.
Also, one is a psychology major, so we handily have analyses on hand, all of them uncontested, naturally, explaining everything Renata goes through and the why the who what and etc. These things don't need to make sense or have any kind of underlying logical structure, because what this psych major tells us is what we all already know from living in the "real world" and its obsession with Pop psych and easy explanations, so obviously it's the true and only answer possible.
Alright, I'm letting my snark get out of hand, but I was truly aggravated by this book. Not only are there no actual characters at all and no plot to speak of, there are no supernatural elements! No horror! No nothing! I mean, the cover of the hardcover version I have says right there, very explicitly: "A chilling story of a nightmare come true." The blurb has hints of wolves howling. I don't feel that an expectation of chills and/or explanations of the wolfy howlings are unreasonable here. Instead, we get none of those with a huge side-serving of Nothing Much Happening for Most of the Goddamn Book.
We're just told that wolves and dogs howl when the murders are committed, and that Regina listens to some freaky music with wolves howling.
Rage! Frustration! But back to the review.
Even though the authors employ first-person narrative, readers are constantly kept at an oceanic distance from the main character (or who the main character, the one doing the action and driving the story, is supposed to be, at least) and you feel at best a bit of sympathy for the poor surviving twin while getting constantly irritated at the narrator and his incessant lame joking. You're also told by our narrator that yes, losing her twin was so horrible for Renata that she went mad and so on so he'll keep an eye on her now and again, all very sad, but hey, English Paper due and class to give, mysteries of Milton to talk about exploring, lame-ass comedy to perform. I'm trying very, very hard to think of what else the narrator does, but I honestly can't add anything to it.
I'm so extremely disappointed in this novel mainly because I have such a soft spot for David Eddings. When I was something like 13, I saw a novel of his at the library and the cover so enthralled me that I picked it up. It was the middle book of a series (the Elenium, if I remember correctly), and that hooked me on fantasy for life. So I wanted this book to be good, and I was willing to like it even if it was just mediocre or slightly bad.
It wasn't even that. It was awful. Truly, soul-wrenchingly awful. The only redeeming quality I can think of is that there are no spelling or grammar errors.
Please avoid. Trees shouldn't have to die for this crap, and there are so many actually good books to read out there that you don't even want to waste the 5 or so hours that it takes to read through this book. That's time you'll never get back!