Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Novelization (1): The 4400


Fun, snappy, not very well written but readable. I got to Greg Cox’s The 4400: Welcome to Promise City (New York: Pocket Star Books [2009], 288 pp.) because of the TV series (of course), and what carried me through to the end was the eagerness to know what happened after the final episode ended. There are plenty of defects here, but the overriding concern is not purity of style, gracefulness of language, or whatnot, but the plot. Cox wants to deliver a punch through a brisk plotline, and, well, he does just that (naught else).

Two basic plotlines dovetail throughout the novel. The first is the idea to clone Danny Farrell (Shawn’s brother), in order to spread promicin everywhere (this may or may not count with Jordan Collier’s blessing, but it is set in motion by a troop of fanatic followers of his). The second is the plan to kill the Marked, a plan that stars the now very powerful Richard Tyler.

Interesting enough. Now, the book is swollen with questionable literary practices. For instance, the author is quite fond of using the word literally to hype up sentences (“literally millions,” for instance). There’s an overdone use of italics to represent people’s thoughts. Some sentences are rather negligent (“Something to think about, he thought” [105]). Clichés crop up everywhere (“Her heart was going a mile a minute” [146]). Unnecessary phrases, meant to spark up smiles I guess, are quite frequent (“But it was too late for words, meaningless or otherwise” [146]). Some sentences are ornate to a point of silly playfulness (“His vulpine face projected a patently insincere facsimile of sympathy” [154]).

Some comparisons are twisted and over the top, adding no real meaning to the narrative and not enough in the way of description to compensate. Two examples: “Her mouth was as dry as Prohibition” (143); “the lackluster blow landed with all the impact of a casually lobbed Nerf ball” (77).

There’s that bit of advice that says we should avoid repeating a same name or description too much (Tom this, Tom that, Tom some more), and this writer took it so deep into his heart it becomes giddy and even nauseous. Chapter 6 offers a nice case study, turning to such fanciful epithets as the “battered embalmer” (77), “the seasoned NTAC agent” (76), and the “gangly teenager” (74).

Next up: the following (and final) book in The 4400 series.

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