~~Moved from GR~~
Ghost of a Chance (Ghost Finders #1)
by Simon R. Green
Sigh. I've now read at least one book in most of Simon R. Green's major series, and I think I'm going to give up. I find the concepts of his books tantalizing in general, and even though there's nothing I fundamentally dislike about his books, I'm just somehow the wrong audience type.
Ghost of A Chance is an urban-fantasy action adventure story--basically what you'd get if you mashed together Ghostbusters with James Bond.
HERE IS YOUR BOOK, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT.
The Leader: J.C. Chance. "The rising star of the Carnacki institute," as our narrator informs us, his codename is actually 007. Handsome, debonair, apparently charismatic, dresses in elegant suits, and wears sunglasses, even in a train station. Repeatedly refers to his team as "children" in a cheerfully patronising manner. Smiles constantly. The narration will repeatedly point out how special he is. Everything he ever does will turn out right, even if all of heaven and earth must interfere to make it so. Note the unsubtle initials. WWJD indeed.
The Smart Guy: Jack "Happy" Palmer, slobbish, short, balding, chubby, depressed, class-10 telepath. The ironically-nicknamed Happy is able to read the emotions of those around him and instigate and defend against psychic attacks, but is also a nervous wreck to the point of psychosis. He spends most of his time either high on various prescribed antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anything-elses, or comedically sulking and depressed, or both. He gets to act as The Paranoid/Comedic Screamer whenever they encounter something frightening.
The Chick: Melody Chambers. The Narration introduces her as "the main brain and science geek", except that her tech is entirely useless throughout the entire plot, so she really functions as Edgy Female. There is really only one word that succinctly describes her (it rhymes with 'itch'), but I've been trying pretty hard not to write profanity in my reviews, so I can't use it. Pretty, fierce, nervous, emotional, sexualized, and bad-tempered. Jokes around her involve skirts, vibrators (how worse her temper is because hers is broken, urk), and how she can bed various other members of the team into happiness. Spends the rest of her time in pointless bickering with everyone she comes in contact with.
We also have a Distressed Damsel, Dark Chick, and The Brute but more details are a little spoilery, and, if I'm honest, I'm really bored with writing this, so I'll leave it to you to discover them. In terms of the villains, let it simply be noted that (1) a pink catsuit is involved, (2) the only POC is described as having a heart darker than her skin (kill me now), and (3) they are notable for their tendency to eat ghosts and (literally) torture kitties in a really horrifically disturbing and graphic manner, just to avoid any semblance of moral complexity. They're also comic relief. I had trouble putting those two facts together.
Something has taken over the Underground. Commuters have been whisked away by ghost trains and terrible things have bubbled up from the deeps. Most of the commuters who could be salvaged are now sectionable. The Team's task: stop whatever is doing it, all the while avoiding the rival team from the Crawley Institute.
I think my major issue is that Green's books tend to be very much about characters, yet the characters are extremely static. Action certainly happens, but it tends not to be enfolded in a tight plot. Things just happen and characters react (statically) to them. As a mystery reader, I can't really cope with the former; I am still irritated by not having a clear understanding of what on earth was going on. Since characters are really why I read, I also can't deal with the latter. I think the books would function well as movies; it's been over a decade since I saw it, but the character dynamics really do remind me of Ghostbusters. The comedic dialogue is constant and never-ending, and while the characters' circumstances will change, including one case of ridiculously superficial InstaLove, their personalities remain entirely static. To enjoy this book, you need to go in realizing that Our Hero is already The Hero. You can watch him gain power and confidence, but he already has all of the skills and experiences to succeed.
Another issue I had with this book in particular was the sheer extreme of Tell rather than Show. Every single character emotion and reaction is provided by our narrator. Sometimes it's helpful; when one of the characters undergoes InstaLove with a female he has seen for less than a minute and who has spoken about three words to him, I actually appreciated the narrator explaining that he had discovered "True love for the first time," because there is no way I would have guessed that on my own. Other times, it's less than helpful, especially since the narrator often paraphrases what the characters just said out loud a few sentences before, or facts that are so mind-numbingly obvious that they are better left unsaid. I also have trouble judging Green as a pure humour writer; his descriptions of various ghostly atrocities are graphic and disturbing and he also tends to try to drop into Earnest Adventure Story Mode. Take an example (names removed to protect the innocent from spoilers.)
"If [he] persisted in his attempt to rescue [her]...he would die. And his soul would be trapped on the hell train forever....[he] knew that, as surely and certainly as he knew anything, and didn't give a damn. It might be true, or it might not; you couldn't trust anything on a hell train. But even if someone he trusted had told him he was doomed, and damned, he would have gone on anyway. Because [she] needed him. So he thrust his face into the bitter cold wind, and stamped his frozen feet, and forced himself down the length of the car, one hard step at a time. Forcing himself on, against everything the train could throw at him. Because in the end that's what love is. To go on, despite everything, driven by hope and faith alone."
"She flew down the car towards him....[he] walked in glory down the car to meet her. They came together in the middle, and the whole of the car was full of their love, a force so powerful it seemed to beat on the air like great wings. [He] reached out to her, and she put out her hands to take his; and his fingers passed right through hers. Because he was alive, and she was dead, he was flesh and blood and she was just a ghost; and because there were some things even the Light could not change.... “We can never touch,” said [..]. “But we have
each other.” “You say the sweetest things,” said [..]"
Whether or not you find that touching and sentimental or ludicrous, glutinous, purple prose depends on your level of cynicism.
For all that, I think the book could be fun if you go into it with your comedy/adventure-movie mentality firmly in place. Even I found myself chuckling at certain well-placed one-liners such as, "Confidence is fun. Sanity is better". The constant character quipping is reasonably well-done, the interactions between the team and its antagonists are entertaining, and the storytelling is fast-paced. I've never been into superheroes, but I think the dynamic here is very similar; if you like those, this may be a good match. So if you are looking for a pure and light ghostly adventure, this may well be worth a look.
IF YOU CHOOSE TO READ THIS BOOK, THIS REVIEWER DISAVOWS ALL RESPONSIBILITY.
THIS REVIEW WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN APPROXIMATELY 2e17 SECONDS.*
*Approximate time until our sun turns into a red giant.