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Guest Post: Tom Doyle

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from an author who’s been on here once before. You can find that post here. I’ve read the first book in his War and Craft trilogy and enjoyed it enough to track down a copy for my younger cousin. So, that said, enjoy!

To Say Farewell: On Concluding a Trilogy

Three years ago, I found a lump on my throat while shaving. The timing seemed particularly perverse–after years of struggle, my first novel, American Craftsmen, would soon be published. The launch party for the book should’ve been one of the happiest moments in my life; instead, I had a growing certainty that my days were numbered. Within days of the party, my diagnosis and existential dread were confirmed: cancer, and it had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck.

For a child of the ‘70s like me, raised on terminal disease tear-jerkers like Brian’s Song, that should have been the beginning of the end of my story. I was ready to say my farewells.

Instead, somewhat to my embarrassment, a combination of Star Trek technology and medieval unpleasantness has cured me. By cured, I mean it’s now over 99% more likely that something other than that particular cancer will kill me. With whiplash force and the mildest touch of PTSD, I went from a rapidly narrowing horizon of time to a vista of many years.

What does this have to do with completing a trilogy about magician-soldiers and psychic spies? Plenty. When I was diagnosed, I’d already submitted the second book, The Left-Hand Way, to my editor. My only bucket list item wasn’t travel or a new experience; it was finishing book three, War and Craft. I had visions of writing to the very end, like Ulysses S. Grant with his memoirs as his throat cancer strangled him.

However, unlike what many former patients say, cancer didn’t so much change my worldview as reinforce my existing one. I’ve always had some awareness that my grip on life and creative work is tenuous and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Also, we’re a society of first impressions, but cancer reminded me that how we say good-bye can be just as important, particularly when good-bye is all that’s left.

If I have one new lesson from my cancer experience, it’s this: what a great gift it is to end things appropriately.

Other authors and fans seem to have issues with the problem of mortality. Readers worry that, like Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin will not finish his series before ill-health or age permanently intervenes. The response to those pestering Martin that “He’s not working for you” is more false than true. As Bob Dylan pointed out, whether we like it or not, we’ve all got to serve somebody. Or to rephrase in the starkest terms of the Game of Thrones worldview, all men must die is intrinsically connected to the idea that all men must serve. In the end, we all must serve the one true god whose name is Death. Those that tell Martin to take as much time as he likes may be enabling artistic failure.

On the other end of the spectrum, some readers don’t care about endings–they would rather a series continue forever. This tends to be an immersive style of reader, who simply wants more and more subcreation within the fictional world. But that’s never been my goal, mostly because, with the possible exception of Middle Earth and all its backstory and author’s notes, I don’t enjoy reading that sort of endless series. Instead, I’ve brought my story to the definite conclusion I wanted. I’ve left some room for reader imagination of what happens next in the craftspeople universe; readers don’t need me for that anymore. But the story this trilogy had to tell is done.

Knowing that the larger narrative would be a trilogy gave me a helpful framework and limit. What this meant structurally is that each of my novels has a standalone plot told from a different craftsperson’s point of view–that character being the one who changes the most in the course of the novel–but there’s also a set of trilogy arcs that I’ve brought to a full resolution. The trilogy structure also gave me a surprise. If there’s a main trilogy character–again, the character that changes the most over the course of the series–it’s not any of the main protagonists of the individual books. See if you can guess who I think that is.

For those readers who’d like to see more about the craftspeople, I offer the following: there’s no bar to me returning to that universe, particular for short excursions, and I’d enjoy chatting with you about various aspects of their world. Also, if I ever return to it in longer form, I think that future book will benefit from the pause.

So, ave atque vale, craftspeople. Hail and farewell. Thank you for being the unfinished business that tethered me to earth when it seemed I might be the one departing. Also, thank you, readers, for coming with me on these journeys, both the one in the books and the personal one I’ve just told you about.

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Tom Doyle is the author of a contemporary fantasy trilogy from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil–and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America’s past. In the third book, War and Craft (Sept. 2017), it’s Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.

Some of Tom’s award-winning short fiction is collected in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories. He writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website, http://www.tomdoylewriter.com.

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Project Pandora

And I’m late again. Thanks for sticking with me folks. This one was kind of hard to get done, so that wasn’t fun. Right, so the review of the week is thanks to the nice folks at entangled teen. This is Project Pandora. Enjoy!

Project Pandora cover

Apollo switched back to Tyler in the middle of a job, something that shouldn’t have been possible. Tyler’s aware of his burner phone, though not its implications. He doesn’t know about the second life in the shadows of his everyday, not until it starts bleeding through. Not even when he realizes that the girl he’s crushing on has a phone just like his. They’ll have to learn quickly, find out what’s at the core of Project Pandora, before they’re tracked down and reprogrammed.

Aden Polydoros’ first novel, Project Pandora, is not a book that would find itself in my top or bottom ten for this year. This is one of those books that, it’s not bad but it also isn’t memorable. There are a lot of solid ideas here and I feel like the book could have been really good with a little more refining. In short, it feels very much like a solid first book.

The official blurb promises action and mystery, danger. While the book itself takes a very slow burn approach to its plot. That’s not in and of itself a bad thing and, in all fairness, in a more solidly plotted book could have been a fantastic way to flesh out the characters. Here it winds up dragging on and feeling like padding. We get these scenes of our characters going about their regular student lives and having their YA romance stuff going on, and it isn’t bad but it also winds up feeling disconnected from the plot really quickly. I feel like if more had been done with their programming breaking down earlier in the book it would have been better and could have lead to more of the mystery that was promised in the blurb. As it stands, the Project Pandora stuff is mostly carried by one character and, since he’s got no other life, it doesn’t really give use any build. That more wasn’t done with that side plot is really disappointing, that was one of the more promising ideas presented.

That’s where a lot of my apathy about Project Pandora comes from. There’s a lot of good ideas for the plot and characters both, but those ideas are fumbled in the writing itself. We have these two pairs of characters, the nice young folks who don’t realize they’re assassins and the beauty and the beast pair who have this instant attraction for each other. We follow all four of these characters, which winds up both killing any mystery that could have happened and leads to a lot of overlap in storytelling. There are so many ways this could have been taken and built upon, but what we got was a lot of teens pining after one another and stressing over high school stuff plus Hades’ issues. The ideas were there and so were the bones of a good story, but they weren’t fleshed out well.

I have very few feelings about this book beyond wishing that the author had done just a little more with it or refined it more. Part of this might be that Project Pandora suffers from being the first in a series, maybe some stuff was left out on purpose so it can be filled in later. Part of it might be that this is the author’s first book and he’ll improve with more practice. Either way it gets a three out of five. I might give Aden Polydoros’ next novel a shot, but this one didn’t impress me.

House Keeping 9/12/17

So, I’ve got my computer cord back. That’s good but only moderately relevant to tomorrow’s review.

I’ve got a guest post coming up on Friday for you guys and another one next week. So that’s awesome.

Not a ton else just at the moment. The Too Much Monday‘s boxes for September ship out on the 15th, so now is as good a time to subscribe as any if you want to lock in September’s box. My affiliate code Tympest will get you 15% off your first box.

I think I want to try doing an unboxing video to go either with or a little before my review for the next box. That could be fun.

Still planning for Halloween. I have a couple of ideas that I’m working out, so there may be more on that next week.

House Keeping 9/7/2017

So, I missed this last week and am late on it this week. Good thing I’m covering it now, right?

So, I’m looking at doing a monthly comic review. Though I haven’t decided between if I want to pick up something new from a pull list or if I want to see what’s in the clearance section of the local book store. Clearance comics is definitely a thing I’ve been juggling as a thought for awhile now, but I’m not sure how sustainable it is. The flip side to that is that I most definitely plan on reviewing the new Ghostbusters ongoing as it’s released. So, this may wind up being a some of both thing.

Still working my way through the backlog, I’m about half way there. So that’s good. I’m hoping to be finished with it soon and be ready to get some newer stuff on here.

I’m also still trying to figure out what to do for Halloween. My original plan had been to try and find some of the old Final Destination books and review them, but they’re out of print and hilariously out of my price range. If it wasn’t for a similar issue I would try and find some of the old World of Darkness novels, since I’m legitimately curious about how well the system would work in novel format.

Also, the September Too Much Monday box is still 50% off of your first box with the coupon code: Tympest. That lasts until the 10th. That makes the first box fifteen dollars instead of thirty, so a little better for trying it out and seeing if you’re interested. The September box includes, in addition to the monthly book pick: A sage apple soy candle, McCrea’s Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Tea, McCrea’s Dark Chocolate Mocha Caramels, a Creamsicle bath bomb, Zoya Hotlips Lip Gloss, and Nail Polish. It seems like it’s going to be a really autumn themed box, so I’m excited.

I have an actual reason it’s late this week! I messed up and left my laptop charger in Opelika after visiting for Labor Day, so I can’t get to the original file for this because the battery is dead. So, I’m rewriting it all in one go here because my gaming rig lacks word. This’ll be fun. This one is thanks to the nice folks at First Second publishing, this is Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. Enjoy!

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King cover

Jack’s sister Maddy was taken by an ogre. He was supposed to be keeping an eye on her, but she was taken anyway. Now it’s up to Jack and his friend Lilly to save Maddy before she’s fed to something known as the beast. But stories are never that simple and the goblin king in the kingdom below is as mighty as Jack and might be the ally he needs to save his sister and get home.

Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is the second part of his Mighty Jack duology, so I am missing a bit of the story. That isn’t a huge problem though, the story does a good job of standing on its own and most of the references to the previous book can be hand waved as semi-standard fairy tale ingredients. Magic plants definitely fit a Jack story after all.

This is a very quick read, not a bad thing, but the story is enjoyable and I liked the characters. I would have actually liked to have seen more of them together, but I feel like that’s a side effect of missing the first book. Just a reason to try and find it.

Lilly gets separated from Jack fairly early on so, while he’s trying to plan how to save Maddy from the giants, she’s dealing with the goblins and their king. It kind of leaves the scenes with Jack feeling like they’re holding time until the goblin king comes to help save the day. That’s not really a complaint though, even as short a time as we saw the goblins’ hide out was cool and I like the idea of there being trash from every world in the under relm of a multiversal nexus. It’s a nifty idea.

The story is fairly straightforward and the art complements that. It’s fairly simple and a bit cartoony, but nicely emotive and it does a good job expressing what’s going on without feeling choppy. Again, the goblins are my favorite because they don’t seem to have any kind of uniform features while also being immediately identifiable as goblins. The colors are vibrant, the creature designs are fun and remind me a bit of Labyrinth, I very much enjoyed the art here.

So, what’s the verdict? I had fun with this comic from page one to the end and, while I have a few issues with the very end that’re probably more to do with having not read the first one, I don’t have any major  complaints. I’m giving Mighty Jack and the Goblin King a five out of five. It’s good and I’m likely to jump at the chance to review Hatke’s work again if I get the chance.

Frost

Not much to blurb about today. It’s quiet in my neck of the woods and that’s pretty ok. I did wind up cutting several things from today’s review for spoilery reasons. So, if you all are cool with tagged spoilers in the reviews, let me know in the comments. Today’s book is courtesy of the nice folks at Scholastic. Here’s Frost. Enjoy!

Frost cover

At sixteen Frost has never been outside the apartment she grew up in, and with good reason, the world outside is a hunting ground for ravenous cannibals and robots gone rogue. It hasn’t been a safe place to live since before she can remember. She needs to leave though. Her pet, Romes, is dying and she can’t bear to see him in pain. Even as the memories of her father try to hold her back, to keep her in her safe prison with the family robot for company and protections, she knows she has to leave and save the only living thing left to her. She grew up on stories about the utopia at the other end of the city, the Battery, where all the science that’s been lost still exists. With Bunt’s help she might be able to make it.

So, M. P. Kozlowsky’s Frost is an odd book. I mean that in a lot of ways. Part of this comes from the fact that Frost feels very much like the first book in a series rather than a standalone novel. It builds slowly for a good two thirds of its page count, then crams in a ton of stuff that could be pay off but that also feels like set up for next time. This book is kind of a mish mash of ideas, so it can be a little difficult to separate them all out.

Let’s start there though. This book is a mess of ideas that could be really cool but then don’t really go anywhere. There’s too many separate threats and concepts for the time spent on any of them. We get a lot about Frost’s feelings and several imaginary flashbacks to before everything fell apart, but not a ton of world building. For example, the Days of Bedlam are the in world name for whatever happened to lead to the current world. It involved robots. That’s about all I know about it from reading the book. Building on that could have been a great way to show more of the world and to explain some of the other stuff. The cannibalistic Eaters, the Broot, the rogue robots, even the climate being messed up all seems to stem from this one set of events. How? It’s mostly waved away as people going too far and it blowing up in their faces, but that’s not satisfying and ,again, leads to this feeling like the start of a series.

There’s also not a lot going on here in the character department. Frost is our ingénue main character innocent, naïve, and just out to save her pet but she doesn’t really seem to change or grow in the course of the book. She’s out in the world for the first time in her life, finds out all this life changing stuff, deals with some seriously messed up situations, but then at the end she’s not a more mature character or more aware. She’s still desperately searching for the same thing she was at the beginning of the book and with not a lot of change in the tone of it.

But she inspires hope in people who meet her, that’s got to count for something, right? Not so much. The side characters she inspires hope in, Flynn and Barrow, are initially written as being hardened by the world they live in and the tragedies of their pasts. Then in comes this random girl, who is super sure that if she can just reach this mythical place she’ll be able to save her pet. She’s so sure of this thing that they both think is impossible at best that they both start believing in hope again. Flynn this could work with if it was done better. He’s the same age as Frost and, despite his tragic back story, is given several moments where he’s shown to want something to believe in. His father, Barrow, not so much. Barrow’s arc feels like it was cut short, which is unfortunate, it was a pretty standard “guy wants to protect his kid even if it means doing questionable things” but it felt more grounded than any of the other character arcs.

A lot of my issues boil down to being issues about character work or world building. There’s a lot of potential to Frost, lots of interesting ideas. In a few instances there’s a quality pay off to an idea established earlier, but there isn’t enough of that for the book as it stands. The book is also very simple both in how it deals with its characters and how the reader is fed how characters feel, almost to the point of it just being straight up telling. In a more solidly written book that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem, but here it goes back to feeling like the author had so many ideas that he didn’t have time to develop any of them.

That’s kind of where I ultimately land on Frost. It’s way too underdeveloped, if Kozlowsky had taken any one of the ideas he introduced here and focused on it the book could have been fantastic. Most of the other issues I had could have been forgiven if the story had been tighter. As it stands though everything is too scattered and underdone so what could have been a solid three to four book winds up being a two out of five, not because it offends me but because it needed so much more work. I might give Kozlowsky’s writing another shot down the road, but it would need to be a book that I’d heard good things about.

Display

I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing with this, this being my first time reviewing something other than a book here. So, let’s do a little background on this first. Too Much Monday is a monthly book and relaxation club. Each month subscribers receive a box containing a book and various items to pamper themselves with, including tea, a snack, a bath bomb, and other items. This month had some really fun stuff in it.

The stars of the show for this month’s box, for me, were the key lime bath bomb and the floral bath salts. I don’t usually just soak in the tub, but these made it worth taking the time. It is also really nice that enough of each is included for two baths if you follow the directions as listed. I did wind up using two cubes of the bath bomb instead of three for a lighter smell, but it was still fantastic.

Keylime Bath Bomb

The tea blend for August was a pineapple, papaya, and honey green tea. It’s got a really light flavor that puts me in mind of honeysuckle more than fruit, but it’s nice to sip on and definitely something I would drink more of. Half a cup in I found myself thinking that it would be fantastic if sweetened with honey and served over ice. I feel like it would work great to complement either the bath bomb or bath salts.

While I’m not sure how well the jelly beans fit with everything else for the treat, they were also tasty. I like the blueberry better than the gingerale if I’m eating them on their own, but eating two at once gives the best of both tastes. Plus, they’re Jelly Belly jelly beans, so I can probably find them again later.

I don’t have much to say about the face mask or coloring sheet. I’m a weenie about pain when it comes to the mask, my roommate noted that masks like it are awesome but hurt when they come off, though I’m still going to use it. I have it, so I might as well. The coloring sheet has a fairly standard floral design. I like it, but I’m more likely to save a couple of them up and give myself an afternoon of coloring.

The only real downside I’ve found with anything that came with the August box is that, with exception to the jelly beans and mask, none of the pampering items had a name associated with them. Given that I really enjoyed several items, it would have been great if the companies that made them were listed on the information card included. This does seem to be something they are fixing for the September box though, and the information might be on their instagram.

Some last things to tidy up here. I haven’t had the chance to read the book pick, Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, but it may show up for a review later. I’ve heard good things about her writing, so it’s definitely worth a shot. Right now, Too Much Monday is taking orders for September’s box. It looks like it’s going to be mostly fall themed with an apple sage candle, chocolate caramels, and a chocolate hazelnut toffee tea. As a bonus, if you order before September 10th and use the coupon code Tympest, you’ll save 50% off your first box instead of the usual 15%.

I’ve been having the hardest time getting this done. Seriously, I spent more time staring at a blank page on this than I spent on some of my papers back in college. I keep going off on Holtzmann related tangents, which is fun but not what I’m here for. A lot of my stuff also winds up being pretty cyclical, so there’s that too. Plus writing this up makes me want to do another thing about the characters specifically later on and I kept getting side tracked by that. Quick note, the version of the movie I have is the theatrical release, not the extended cut, so I may make reference to the movie not having certain scenes that were restored for that. It’s a lot later than I meant for it to be, but hopefully still fun. Enjoy!

General Feelings:

The Book: So, one of the big things with this Book vs. Movie is that both tell, essentially anyway, the same story. I went into a lot of my stuff with the book in my review, but I feel like I need to repeat that my main issue with it stemmed from its having a set protagonist in Erin. That the book is based on the script for the movie also means that a lot of moments I really enjoyed in the movie are absent because they were improvised by the actors. That said though, there are a number of flashbacks early on that fill in both Erin’s tragic back story and what happened between her and Abby. The movie doesn’t suffer hugely from not having them, but they did make me appreciate Abby a lot more.

The Movie: This is one where I saw the movie several times before I read the book. I am distinctly hoping that a sequel happens, maybe set after the upcoming comic or something. The movie is a horror comedy, much heavier on the comedy than the horror. It could have used some of the flash back stuff the book had to beef up the initial dynamic between Erin and Abby and, not going to lie, I would have had less Kevin but it’s solid and funny. It also has a lot more Holtzmann and Patty, due to the actresses physically being there, which is something I’m never going to complain about.

Erin vs The Ghostbusters:

Dr. Erin Gilbert: I’m not a huge fan of the book’s version of Erin.  It isn’t that she’s a bad character so much as that the way she’s written tends to make her feel stiff and unconnected to other characters. Part of this is that a number of shared scenes in the movie are Erin’s thoughts in the book or cut down to being between her and Abby. Book Erin is a protagonist who lends herself to over thinking things and worrying more about her/their credibility being acknowledged than actual accomplishments. Now, the flipside to this is that the book being so Erin focused pulls her issues to the front. She’s noted the day of her tenure review on her calendar as V day, validation day. That no one believed her as a child when she talked about the ghost is something that gets touched on a lot and built on. Eventually other people’s disbelief lead her to taking an authority figure’s advice and abandoning the paranormal, her research, and Abby. It’s something she struggles with throughout the book.

The Ghostbusters: While the movie does still tend to focus more on Erin and it could be argued pretty easily that she’s still the main character, I very much prefer how present the other characters are in the movie. Admittedly a big part of the other characters being more present is that their actresses are physically there, even if only in the background, so even if a character isn’t doing anything that effects a scene they’re still there doing something. Because there was a lot of improvisation on a lot of lines there was more interaction between the Ghostbusters and that did a lot to sell them as a team. There’s more cohesiveness as a result and that means I care more about what happens. That I’d watched the movie first and Holtzmann and Patty are my favorites affects this greatly. They’d probably still be my favorite characters if I’d read the book first, but that’s a lot to do with seeing more of them in the movie.

Rowan North:

Book: Rowan is much more a foil to Erin in the book. They both had rough childhoods due to their parents not understanding them and kids at school being aweful. They both have an interest in the paranormal, Erin to prove it’s real with science and Rowan to end the world and rule over the ghosts. They’re both smart, having attended and graduated MIT. But then Erin is a partical physicist, because she gave up on the paranormal and ran away from her research to try and be normal, while Rowan is a janitor who hates his job and everyone he interacts with. Erin is self destructive in a way that leads to no validation being enough, she needs everyone to know that this thing was real all along. Rowan doesn’t seem to care what anyone else thinks of him, he’s put himself above it all, if people don’t accept him then that’s fine they were worms anyway. His back story is more than a little cartoonish, but so is he. Rowan is one of the only characters that I feel benefitted totally from the book. He gets point of view scenes and seeing that makes him familiar. The book grounds how fantastical Rowans plans are in a character who is at once both the ineffectual loser who doesn’t people well and also the guy driven enough by his anger to build bombs in his basement.

Movie: In the movie Rowan loses out on almost all of the point of view bits he has in the book. This loses a lot of what made him work there and makes him a limp villain with not a lot of drive. We get a scene where he monologues to himself about going from having been bullied to being the bully, but that doesn’t work for me, it’s too neat. We don’t get anything on his background beyond that. We don’t get as much of the utter distain for humanity. He feels more like he’s there because they needed a bad guy and less like he’s be hording ammo if the Fourth Cataclysm didn’t work out.

Character Moments:

Book: As I’ve mentioned before, the book doesn’t have a ton of little character moments. That does make the moments that it does have stand out more. My biggest example is towards the end of the book, Erin’s punched a blogger and left the headquarters to be alone and we get Patty and Holtzmann going out to get sandwiches. This bit has next to nothing to do with the plot, but it lets us get to know both of them better and shows them interacting and being friendly. There’s also the bit right before it with Holtzmann trying to cheer Erin up after the fallout from her decking the blogger.

Movie: The movie is made of character moments largely, again, because the actresses are physically present and it featured a lot of improvisation. It bounces in importance from Holtzmann flirt dancing to “The Rhythm of The Night” which is awesome but minor, to the Swiss army knife/side arms scene which is both a character moment and also important to the big fight at the end of the movie. While he’s not my favorite, most of Kevin’s non-plot scenes are from the movie. Plus, again, with the movie we’re out of Erin’s head and so see more of how the other characters react to things.

Conclusion:

This is a case where I like the movie better, hands down. While the book clarifies things that the movie could only hint at, it only does so for one character. The ghosts of the book, Slimer excluded, were also less cartoony because I was imagining them rather than seeing them and the book goes a little more into the descriptions for it’s mooks. Meanwhile the movie benefits massively from its actresses which the book, by virtue of being a book, doesn’t have. That’s pretty well what a lot of my feelings on the book boil down too, it was entertaining and fun but it didn’t have the characters as I knew them while also being similar enough that it felt weird. If you can find the book, give it a shot. If not, grab some friends and watch the movie.

Confession time. I know this is the full name for the movie, so I’m only assuming that it’s also the novelization’s proper title. If anyone knows, give me a heads up. Anyway. There’s a review to kick off my throwing so, so many words at the new Ghostbusters. Enjoy!

Ghostbusters Answer the Call cover

Dr. Erin Gilbert has moved past the strangeness of her childhood. She’s respected in her field, up for tenure at Columbia University, and then some guy shows up with a copy of the book she thought she’d buried. To protect her safe, normal life Erin’s going to have to confront her former friend Abby and her new co-worker Holtzmann. Confront them and then wind up working with them once she’s booted from Columbia and determined once again to prove the existence of ghosts to prove she isn’t lying or insane. Strange things are happening in New York and it’s going to be up to the Ghostbusters to get to the bottom of it.

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, the 2016 movie, was one of my favorite recent movies. It isn’t a perfect movie by any means but it’s solidly entertaining and a lot of fun. This isn’t a review of the movie though, this is about the novelization by Nancy Holder. This bit is mostly here to point out that I’m not really reviewing the story here, I like the story it gets a four out of five from me. This is mostly going to be me talking about the writing itself.

One of the big differences here is that the novelization has a set main narrator where the movie is more of a group thing. Erin Gilbert is the decided lead of the novelization, she’s the one we’re following and it’s her head we’re stuck in for the bulk of the story. That’s both a positive and a negative. Being in Erin’s head lets us dig a lot more into her character stuff it makes it very clear that she’s got anxiety and serious issues with needing validation from the most conventionally normal people possible. That’s fantastic and is both heavily supported by her back story as well as doing a fantastic job informing her actions in the story proper. The flip side to being in Erin’s head is that she’s not an incredibly likeable character here, she’s judgy and picky and can be just generally unpleasant. I do feel like a lot of that comes from the  writing itself. Erin’s thoughts have this weird stilted diction to them that would have been great if she was one of several leads, it is really notable and feels fairly technical in a lot of places. Unfortunately it can put me in mind of “not like other girls” YA protagonists.

That’s actually kind of a thing with the writing throughout the book, it can feel very like a bad young adult novel when it’s at its worst. There’s a couple scenes that do nothing for the book where Erin talks to other, basically one off, female characters and they feel very like something that would pop up in bad YA. These one off characters exist to mock Erin, and to a lesser degree the other Ghostbusters, which serves to reinforce her not fitting in but the scene doesn’t really work because they have no bearing on anything. Another bad YA moment is when Kevin is introduced and Erin’s brain literally stops working for a paragraph or so. Points for her losing interest as she realizes how incredibly dumb Kevin is.

I feel like I’m being unfair to the main character here. I sort of am. These moments are pretty spaced out and the unlikablilty would probably not be nearly as much a thing for me if I hadn’t seen the movie first. What’s it like when other characters get the spot light? There were some bits before Patty joins the party and towards the end with the other Ghostbusters as the point of view characters. I would have loved to see more of that. We also have several short bits throughout with Rowan, the antagonist. Those have a lot of the same bad YA feel, but they work a lot better for me because Rowan is a character that I’ve known people who were like that. He thinks he’s much better than anyone else, that his station in life is an unfairness inflicted upon him by the innumerable fools he must constantly suffer. That whole feel ties in really well to his driving thing being, essentially, revenge against the world as a whole. Rowan is stilted and full of himself in ways that can often throw a fantastic dark mirror to Erin. I adore that. The idea that, in another iteration of the story, their places could have been swapped interests me. Though, I do feel like more could have been done with him to solidify that and make him a bit less cartoony.

What this all boils down to is that, while Holder does some fantastic character work that I would have absolutely loved to have seen more of on more characters, the same character work can come across as more than a little juvenile. And that can be jarring. There’s a section that I actually read like five times featuring Holtzmann and Patty that was really good, it made me wish there was more of them in the book. It felt like a genuine moment for both of them and, after so much Erin angsting over her past mistakes, it felt really good to just have them getting to know each other. As with many things I’ve mentioned here, I would have really enjoyed more of that kind of moment during the quiet points of the plot.

So, I’ve already said at the beginning that I enjoyed the story. I’ve talked a lot about the writing itself being solid but cartoony or overly exaggerated, about it needing a little more. That’s kind of what decides it for me. Ultimately I would read Nancy Holder’s writing again whether another movie novelization or original fiction, but the need for just a little more in a lot of the character work leaves Ghostbusters: Answer the Call with a three out of five all told.

So, it’s Ghostbusters week! I’m excited because that means that I get to talk about a thing I like a lot several times, plus I have an excuse to rewatch the movie with a couple friends. That’s tomorrow so the Book Vs. Movie post will go up later in the week, probably Friday morning.

I’m still waiting on the Too Much Mondays box to arrive. Hopefully tomorrow. Once it’s here I will likely post my review of it on Monday for thematic fun times. I am going ahead and adding my affiliate link in case anyone wants to check it out.

That’s really all I’ve got this week. I’m on my way to catching up on my backlog of books, not quite half way there, but on my way.