Central Park Knight - C.J. Henderson

~~Moved from GR~~

 

Central Park Knight

by C.J. Henderson

 

Central Park Knight has an exciting premise--an Indiana Jones style professor battling Lovecrafian monsters in NYC.
But for me, the book just didn't do it.
The characters were flat, the action was nonexistent, and began to feel that the author should be fined for his repeated violations of "show, not tell."

For me, the book was disastrous both in terms of character and writing style, but flat characters are far too commonplace to earn my fiercest ire. The writing style, make me more and more furious with each successive page. I haven't seen so many dashes or such long sentences since I stopped reading womens' novels from the Regency and Victorian periods. The author's excruciatingly long descriptions and interruptions when moving ponderously towards the (short) action scene probably were meant to build up tension, but they just made me impatient. The writing was clunky and suffered from a bad case of "instant paraphrase". Whatever occurs in dialogue or body language, rather than building the story, is superfluous because the narration reiterates and every single fact and describes, in excruciating detail, every single thought and intention behind the words. 

For example, choosing a section at random, I found these gems:

Smiling back at his guide, he gave her an exaggerated tilt of the head, letting the woman know how greatly he appreciated her bit of humor. Warming to her completely, the young man began asking questions" (78)

 

The young man bit at his lower lip, nodding his head several times to indicate that her information was correct while keeping from making eye contact with her. Rainert's obvious embarrassment let Danielle know instantly that he was telling the truth, and the tone in her voice revealed the extent to which she was obviously impressed. Looking over her charge in a completely new light, she clapped her hands together several times, tittering" (80)



The characters did not do much to save the narrative. Take Indiana Jones, strip away all of his humor, rip his humanity out by the seams, and expel every ounce of charisma from his character, and you have our hero, Piers Knight. Yes, that really is his name. Get used to seeing it five times or so on every page. Knight is apparently handsome, genius-level brilliant, famous, daring, coolheaded, and totally inhuman and unlikable. However, somehow he also has Indiana Jones' habit of being swooned upon--and hitting on--younger women. Women in the narrative are described by appearance first and character later--if ever. The standard for female intelligence and daring appears much lower than that of the male. It grated on me that the beautiful, red-haired Bridget is seen as something special and brave by our professor because she played the role of timorous damsel and then played assistant while he saved the world. Clearly, the role of women is to simper, console, and assist the menfolk. And the women aren't even good at passion. The characters are so wooden that the supposedly emotional scenes embarrassed me.

For example, here is our touching and ever-so-realistic love scene:

So tell me, as you look into my face, as you count the lines that were not there the last time we spoke; as you scan my head, enumerating the gray hairs that I did not carry when last we met, judging by how I have aged, darling, how long has it been since....well...since?
...
"How long...'since,'" he asked her. "If I judge by the emptiness left in my heart when...when we were torn apart, it's been a hundred life times...If I were to judge the passage of time based solely on what I can read in your beauty, then I would be forced to admit that we must never have met, for you appear younger than ever." 
A shift came over Ms. Lu, one so abrupt it was obvious even she had not believed such was possible. As Knight allowed himself to soften, his defenses to drop, she did the same, the corners of her eyes moistening slightly. (88)


It gets worse, but the scene is so long and agonizing I can't type any more. This overblown, pretentious, clunky dialogue dehumanized the characters for me rather than giving them depth. 

Our other protagonist is George Reinert. 
Reinert is obese, and Henderson just won't let us forget it. Any time Reinert steps onpage, some epiphet that distainfully describes his weight--"fat", "obese", "lumpish", "pudgy", "thick", "sagging", "overweight", "greasy", "unsightly", "awkward", "sausage-like fingers", -- is sure to be used. Maybe Henderson was trying to be tolerant, open-minded, and creative by having a fat protagonist, and that is admirable, but Reinert doesn't break stereotypes, he enforces them. Reinert is a pudgy, nerdy, tech genius who is completely socially inept, and it felt to me that the author's disgust and distain when describing his weight and his lifestyle soiled every description. 

The author tells us he's smart, and we'll have to take Henderson's word for it, since Reinert doesn't display any glimmerings of it to the reader. 
Here's an instance of his vaunted intelligence. Upon meeting Knight, he says, "Pleased to make your aquaintance, your lordship." Knight's response:

His greeting also struck Knight as a trifle out of the ordinary. [Really?] If nothing else, the slight oddness of it gave the professor some hope. It had been clever, [clearly the prof and I have different definitions of clever] and certainly different--two things he appreciated in anyone when he found them." (57)

So he's never heard bad puns on his last name before, and this lame attempt was the best he's heard?

I really tried to like this book. I did. It seemed like something of a reimagining of Terry Pratchett's Guards, Guards!, where ancient dragons hidden in pockets of time are called out, not into Anhk Morpork, but into prosaic NYC, and it looked fun. But the writing style and flat characters murdered any enjoyment I could have gotten out of the book. I will admit that instant paraphrase probably bothers me more than other people, so maybe others will enjoy the book more. But with the number of truly deep and great books out there, I wish I'd spent my three hours and twenty-six minutes differently.