Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Blind Spy by Alex Dryden

August 1971

Lieutenant Valentin Viktorov walked carefully and with evident hesitation through the labyrinth of Aleppo's covered souk.

The next paragraph describes what this guy looks like, as if that matters on page 1. As a protest, I refuse to imagine the character as the writer is describing him. In my mind he has a mustache and is six months in with estrogen therapy. Why? Because I can. That's right, I will read this book anyway I choose.

The first page also has KGB written twice, as if that's supposed to scare the hell out of everyone and hook us all into reading this. And what the hell is a souk? Oh, yeah, a mall. How many people know that without Google? But souk sounds better. Ultimately, what this means is that the writer will use lots of foreign words people don't understand in order to establish setting and create atmosphere. Why? Certainly not because there lacks a talent or time to create mood using English words.

So begins a prologue in a time past with people sinking into back story.

Chapter 1:

January 8, 2010

The black S-class stretch Mercedes crossed beneath the Moscow ring road on Entuziastov at just after 5:30 in the morning.

So we have a car opening with a GPS insert, not that anyone would know what the hell a ring road is, unless they know Moscow; for all we know, they could be next to Red Square. So again the reader would have to google if he or she cared, but they don't - why? Because it doesn't matter where they are in Moscow. By paragraph 2 they aren't even in Moscow anyway, making that first line quite redundant. Next line:

It was snowing harder...yadda, yadda, yadda - weather. Why do writers feel compelled to begin books set in Russia with weather (usually cold weather) in the first sentence, or in this case the second and establish something we already know? It's a special cliché that the Russian setting has all to itself. So for all you authors out there writing a story set in Russia, start with the story, not a weather report. Trust me, readers aren't so stupid that they need everything typed up for them. If you believe you are an exception, please leave a comment below identifying yourself.

First thing said:

"There it is."

That sounds like something Austin Powers would say.

Verdict: Fail

The title's cool though. There, I said something nice, Theo.

Rudy Globird

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