Many people I know think of "the writing" as the words chosen and the order in which they are placed. But that's only the "skin" of the narrative, the thin "exterior". Many professionals I know think of "the writing" as the elements -- character, relationships, ideas, theme, plot twists and so on -- and how they are fitted to and function together; the "muscle" and "bone" and "organs", if you will.
This book has AMAZING muscle & bones & organs, but the skin is kind of weak.
It's tempting to say that Michael Crichton's story was weakened or marred by Richard Preston's prose, but any writer will tell you it's never that simple. I haven't read Crichton's notes or outline, so I have no idea what Preston had to work with. Some of the plot twists or character relationships, or even some of the science that was blended to create the fiction, that I enjoyed so much may be entirely Preston's invention! So I won't take the easy route and say the late Mr. Crichton was his usual brilliant self and Mr. Preston failed us.
I will say, instead, that the story is captivating, at times jaw-dropping, and the ride is a roller coaster comparable to Crichton's most exciting classics!
I didn't figure out what the story actually was until Chapter 8, maybe a paragraph before it is explained outright; and once it hit me what type of ride this was going to be I was thrilled! This was territory already famously explored by Richard Matheson half a century ago! Did Crichton & Preston really have something new to bring to the table? Of course they did!
But that was only the beginning, the first shock in a surprising array of shocks! This novel is about as much fun as my first read of JURASSIC PARK! I'm tempted to say this is the ultimate example of why Crichton is the master of the Techno-Thriller...
But that goes back to the question of who actually created what. My favorite plot twist (or, in the case of this novel, plot decapitation-and-five-more-heads-grow-back-to-replace-the-one-that-got-lopped-off) may have been invented by Preston to bridge the gap between one section of Crichton's outline and the next.
So, for the person debating on getting this book, it is probably most useful to say this: The story is superior and so much fun! The scientific concepts and the creative exploration of those concepts is on par with the best of Crichton's work! When you think the book can't drop your jaw again, it does! The characters are actually a bit more fleshed-out than some of Crichton's work. The only real drawback to the novel is that it seems to be written for a middle-school audience.
That's the only hindrance, but sometimes it's quite annoying. There are many times when Preston (and this we can be sure is Preston because it's the actual prose) will explain something in narration, then have the character repeat the exact passage in dialogue, or vice versa. It's as though Preston were so afraid we might not be able to digest what was going on that he wanted to make sure we got it twice. (To be fair to Preston, though, this could simply be lax editing: It would seem a skilled editor would catch the many redundancies and suggest Preston remove either the description or the dialogue.) But it certainly draws a distinction between this and Crichton's other works: Crichton's other novels make me feel smarter after I read them, and this one feels as though the author is talking down to me at times.
But the prose -- the "skin" -- is really the only problem with this book; everything else is awesome!
I would recommend that fans of Crichton's work not miss this last amazing thrill ride from a master! Even beyond the grave, he's still got one last, great adventure to send us on!
As a long-time fan of THE COMIC TOOL BOX, I snapped up the Kindle version of this book the moment I discovered it. I read it through, loved it, and then proceeded to jump back and forth through the book doing the different exercises, creating my own material with Mr. Vorhaus's guidance.
So when I happened upon this audiobook version, once again I snapped it up immediately. I really like the way Vorhaus reads his novels, so I knew I would enjoy this.
What I didn't expect was HOW MUCH I enjoyed it!
First of all, since I've been dipping in and out of Vorhaus's last few how-to-write books, I had forgotten just what an inspirational impact his books create as a whole. He takes you from wanting to do it, to getting started, to simple problem-solving, to more sophisticated problem-solving, to "Okay, now go do it!" He takes you through Theory, but this is just to help you understand why and how the tools he gives you work.
But once you're read the book all the way through the first time, you tend to get lost searching down specific exercises to solve specific problems, and forget what that initial reading experience was like.
And as corny as this may sound, there is an added dimension in hearing John Vorhaus reading his own work. It's not that he acts it out or anything, but somehow coupling the voice with the words makes it feel more personal. Even more inspiring that just the text.
And with all Vorhaus's comedy-writing stuff, what he has to teach goes well beyond merely writing within the Comedy genre. Vorhaus shows us how to create characters and stories out of thin air; if we're not trying to be funny ALSO, then we're simply saving a step. (Art doesn't work like that, naturally, but it's a fun turn of phrase, so I couldn't resist.)
I would recommend this book to ANYONE who wants to write fiction! Anybody could string together a sequence of events that eventually cease, but THE LITTLE BOOK OF SITCOM will help you craft a story that resonates with your readers!
LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS is one of the most astounding novels I have ever read!
First of all, I was born in 1970. I had a complicated childhood, so I really didn't start becoming Me until 1979 or 1980. And yet, Vorhaus's novel somehow manages to jet me back to my own adolescence, that first Perfect Girl who introduces me to the world outside TV and comics and movies! All that made her perfection to me, Vorhaus captured her here, right here in this book! I had forgotten about her, but here she is, forever preserved for me.
Then, there's the DEPTH! Fiction doesn't deal with spirituality. But why doesn't it? I mean, Horror can deal with spirituality, but that's always the same old formula: Religious girl, atheist guy, agnostic who is the first to realize the ancient demonic curse is actually real...none of it's REAL. We ARE our worldview, it colors every perception of our every day...so why can't fiction deal with real spirituality? We're all asking the same questions, why can't writers write about it?
John Vorhaus does. He weaves it right into his story, makes it a part of his characters!
But most of all -- to me, at least -- this book is FUN!!! Like everything Vorhaus writes -- fiction or non-fiction -- this novel is written with his inspired sense of play (and love of language)!
And this novel is HONEST. There's a moment where Gene sees that Lucy automatically checks the payphone change slot for stray coins and wonders "She does that, too? Does everyone?" I like to think that's Mr. Vorhaus winking at us, assuring us that, yes, we ALL think like this, we're not alone.
If you've read the blurbs and think you will enjoy this book, YOU WILL! If you've never read Kerouac, Ginsberg, or Burroughs, your mind will be blown! But if you have, you'll be reminded why you dug their work so much: So much TRUTH behind these fantasies, these artificial worlds that reveal Reality!
The mystery is hot and the poker is hotter!
Poker has worked as the backdrop for countless movies and TV shows, but John Vorhaus has shown us it works as the backdrop for a novel, too!
At first I missed Radar Hoverlander, but Vorhaus has given us Megan Moore and Jim Rafferty to guide us through this perplexing maze of thickening plot. And soon, I found myself rather enjoying seeing Vic Mirplo in this new context.
I was a bit surprised by how intense the story gets at times! The story was always enjoyable, but there's a real sense of threat this time around! A very nice surprise!
Also, it was so awesome to hear Vorhaus reading his own material! Not to speak poorly of William Dufris, who read THE CALIFORNIA ROLL, but I preferred Vorhaus's read.
To anyone pondering buying this audiobook, here's what you can expect: Fun characters, story that becomes exponentially more engrossing the further it goes, and tons and tons of Poker! This was fast-paced and just a lot of fun!
John Vorhaus's Radar Hoverlander is a lovable rogue who drags us into situations that are always fresh and always fun! And the story might slow down from scene to scene, but you would never call is "slow" (in any sense of the word).
The writing is a delight! Vorhaus clearly adores the English language, and uses it as masterfully as Douglas Adams or P. G. Wodehouse. In fact, the overall sense of the novel can best be compared to the Dirk Gently or Jeeves series by those respective authors: Fun characters doing fun (if not always well-advised, or even sane) things that keep the story tension winding ever tighter, until the inevitable climatic explosion!
I can't wait to hear the others! This book is marvelous fun!
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