Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Body of Evidence Series by Christopher Golden #1-3

I ended up picking up Body Bags, the first book in this series, because I had insomnia and for some reason it was on my mom's bookshelf in the guest room at home. I knew Christopher Golden because of his work with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and so it seemed worth a shot.

The series focuses on Jenna Blake, a college freshman who wanted to become a doctor but is squeamish around blood. Her dad convinces her to take on a job with the medical examiner and she finds her niche. She also, naturally, finds an excessive amount of conspiracies and danger. Because if she didn't, what would the books be about?

The first book was originally released in 1999, well before I started reading them. And while it doesn't seem the series was exactly finished, there are no new books being published in it. I was actually quite surprised that the books started before CSI began airing (it began in fall of 2000, over a year later) because it has a lot of the same ideas, and a lot of the same flaws. In fact, I could sum up this review simply by saying that if you like CSI and young adult books, you should probably give the series a shot.

But I'd feel like I need to warn you that if you have any problems with the logic or science of CSI, the you probably should stay away. I give the tv show a pass because I enjoy the characters and the acting is quite good, but I can't watch the spin-off series because I wasn't already invested before they started to go off the rails with their concept of reality. Body of Evidence suffers the same kind of problems. I know a little too much about forensics and police work to believe half of what happens, because even though Golden gets a lot right, he also is perfectly happy to jettison believability in favor of drama and plot.

Don't get me wrong, this is how a writer probably should be. But at the same time, the characters really weren't grabbing me enough to make me willing to suspend my disbelief that much. Jenna has the same exact crisis of conscience in every book, just with slightly different flavors. And don't get me started on the love interests, because the romance in this book is so bad that I wish it didn't exist. Seriously, we could have had a young adult series where the heroine doesn't really care about guys and might date sometimes if she meets somebody but it's not really a big part of the story. Instead, we just keep circling around her crush on a guy fifteen years older than her (is it fifteen? I've repressed the details because it got so boring and slightly gross).

Of the three books, Thief of Hearts is the best because Golden takes the most chances and goes probably as far as he can with the characters. It has the feel of a finale, rather than just being the second book in the series, and that actually makes Soul Survivor suffer greatly by comparison. The characters mostly slip back into where they were before, and they shouldn't. The events of Soul Survivor should have forever changed them, and the way that it haunts them feels inauthentic rather than deeply moving.

The other problem I have is that the author is constantly being FAR too detailed in his descriptions for my taste, almost always about inconsequential details. It feels like it's written only for people who live in Boston so they can say, "I know that place! I know where that is! I've heard of that store! I listen to that radio station!" To people outside of Boston, they're just extra nonsense words, and when they don't actually contribute to the plot (which is most of the time) then it just makes reading the book a little more difficult than it should be. But maybe I'm spoiled because in screenwriting, you don't even mention a character's hair color unless you have to. Describing more than the basics about a location is a huge no-no, and so I'm always going to like sparse over detail unless that detail actually means something.

In the end, this sounds like I hate the books completely, but I do have the fourth one and I plan to read it. I would say anybody who likes this kind of story should definitely check out Body Bags and Thief of Hearts, they're pretty strong (if you ignore the romantic tension). But if you find yourself struggling through Soul Survivor, I don't think I can say it's worth finishing unless you're the type of person who always finishes books. Maybe the fourth book will change my mind.

A jerk is a jerk

Lately I've noticed a tendency that's hard to quantify exactly. Basically it's the "blaming a group/opinion for the bad actions of a few" but it's almost a little more pervasive than that.

Recently, there was a bit of an online argument (I know, I know) that I was involved in that really seemed to center around one person (the other guy) basically assuming anybody with a particular opinion only knew how to express said opinion in a rude and insensitive way.

This is a bit like when people get mad at Christians, atheists, vegetarians, or vegans. Or even feminists or people who advocate for equal rights. They say things like "vegans are always yelling at you for eating what you want to" or "feminists just screech at men for being men all the time."

But the thing I see fewer and fewer people understanding is that it's not the opinion, group, or stance that's the problem. It's that the person they're talking to is a jerk.

If a vegetarian is out to eat with a meat eater, and the vegetarian screams "murderer" at the top of their lungs when the omnivore orders, then they're a jerk. If the person who eats meat waves their burger in a vegan's face and tries to trick them into eating cheese, then they are a bad person. It's not that omnivores are bad people, it's that one particular person.

If an atheist says anybody who has religion is "irrational and stupid" and is constantly teasing others about their "sky god" then they are being pompous and stupid. If a Christian walks around telling people they're going to hell and is constantly hassling them to go to church, they're being narrow minded and stupid.

I would love it if we all stopped acting like it was and took the time to call people out on their personal actions and behaviors and not lashed out at other people who happen to think the same way as that guy you know who is always yelling at people.

It used to be that people could see the difference, that they took the time to make sure when they complained they were being clear about who, what, and why. It's not even time consuming, it's a matter of word choice. But lately, more and more I'm running into people not just being vague about their complaints but actually meaning it as a condemnation of the entire group. That's what I was dealing with in this argument, where I tried to point out the motivations of the particular group of people in question I was constantly met with "no, it's just rude, they're just jerks, they're insensitive. To feel that way is insensitive."

There are some opinions that do make you a jerk. Being racist or homophobic is just wrong and it is insensitive. Not liking muenster cheese is not one of those opinions.