Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Maximum Ride

I'm currently reading some books by James Patterson. I started with 'Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment', then moved on to the original 'When the Wind Blows'. Its interesting to see the same author give the same setup two treatments

On balance I like the original more. As its somewhat purer and closer to the potential science. A girl who's arms are wings makes genetic sense, even though a human sized creature would not be able to fly under current Earth conditions.

In contrast the six limbed children of the Maximum Ride series are pure fantasy, as are the Erasers (techno babel for werewolf). And I have to say all the additional random powers give that set of books a very X men vibe, which I just didn't find that entertaining. Especially when one of the bird children finds that she can also breath under water, using invisible vents in her neck.

I'm also reminded of why I tend to stay away from Suspense Thrillers. Patterson's style is to use short sharp chapters and rapidly shifting point of view, much like a movie. Occasionally making the amateurish mistake of shifting heads mid scene. Maybe its acceptable but I've studied the craft of writing enough to e jarred by it. In 'When the wind blows' this seems to particularly happen with the Thomas Harding character. He is hunting the bird children and there are numerous instances where Point of View shifts rapidly between him and Either Max or Mathew, then back again all on the one page

Its a pet peeve but I find the frequent changes of point of view and perspective (some chapters are in first person and others in third) jarring and a little confusing. So far in When the Wind blows I've counted nine points of few, and at least one chapter which I think was a flashback, though this isn't entirely clear. Suspense Thriller writers seem to do this an awful lot, Indeed the short section ending in the Point of view character being murdered is a stable of the field.

For me one or two points of few is a far better approach. I recall seeing this done rather well by De Lint in Little Grrl Lost. Here we had TJ's story told consistently in 3rd person and Elizabeth's told consistently in first person. Each has one or more longish chapters to tell their story until it gets to some kind of narrative pause, or cliffhanger, before we switch.

So in summary I like the idea enough to soldier on, even if I find the way it has been written a little jarring.


I''ve come to the conclusion that what this author needs as a tough editor, willing to call him on things. I suspect that what has happened is that Mr Patterson has gotten sufficiently successful that they publish his draft as is, with insufficient editing.

I'm on 'The lake house' now and there is a host of the same problems. Switching between heads. Redundant chapters honestly why do we need to get a description of what is happening at the Hospital three times. OK the 3rd has a different point of view, but its still hopelessly redundant. Worst still we get this right at the beginning, with the name of the villein. Whats the point of a suspense novel where the reader knows who the villein is from the first chapter? Then we have Francis start naming the secret project even though she never actually found out the name of the project. Yes the reader knew but she didn't. And then finding out that the Good doctor has clones, Again ruin the suspense why don't you.

I still like the story, but the way it is written is driving me up the wall.

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