Thursday, 15 March 2012

Didn’t Finish It… ‘Fated’ – Benedict Jacka (Orbit)

Because life is far too short to keep plugging away at a book that just isn’t working for you… isn’t it? I’d say yes, of course it is!
As much as I try to finish everything I read it’s not going to happen all the time, law of averages and all that. Some books are just plain atrocious (and there are a few of them covered here in this blog) and others have the misfortune to be the wrong book at the wrong time. Other books are out down for other reasons entirely, books like Benedict Jacka’s ‘Fated’ for instance. Here, have some blurb…

Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle, and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer. In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won't sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you're looking for, he might just be able to help. That's if he's not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.

That looks like a great blurb doesn’t it? Well, the book itself may work for you but it didn’t for me.

I knew something was up when Jacka’s Camden didn’t come across nearly as cool and lively as the real thing. I don’t spend nearly as much time there as I’d like to but I love Camden and this just wasn’t Camden, not for me. It just felt a little lifeless.

I could have dealt with that though, and kept going, if it hadn’t been for the big issue that really turned me off reading any further.
The way I see it, you have to be very careful if you pay homage to another writer’s work in your own piece. If you’re not careful then you’ll find yourself writing in that writers world rather than your own; you really want to avoid this if you’re writing your debut novel and want to get readers involved in your own world.

For my money, Jacka fell foul of this trap when he paid a little homage to one Jim Butcher and his ‘Harry Dresden’ books. Butcher’s world is larger, and more established, so one almost throwaway sentence had the unwelcome effect of making Jacka’s world a part of Butchers.
So that was the sense of identity well and truly gone then and things started feel more and more like a ‘Dresden’ novel after that. It was at that point where I realised that if I wanted to read a ‘Dresden’ book then I may as well read one of the originals instead of ‘Fated’. About three seconds after that I put ‘Fated’ down and haven’t picked it up since. Fans of Harry Dresden might like it but not me, not this time.

If anyone here has read ‘Fated’ and disagrees with me please feel free to leave a comment in the usual place. This is how I feel about the book at the moment but I’m willing to be talked round :o)


SQT said...

Most of the reviews I've read for "Fated" back up your impression of the book.

Elfy said...

I'm hearing some of the same things, it is interesting that Jim Butcher, who rarely gives recommendations, has a cover blurb endorsing the book, though.

MammonAzrael said...

So you read three pages of a book. How in the world does that make you qualified to write a review of it? While the book is urban fantasy, and thus the same genre as The Dresden Files, they are in no way sharing the same universe, which you would know had you read Fated.

Your issues, both with Camden and a nod to Dresden, are perfectly valid, but to claim a review off only those two items and the first three pages of the book strike me as arrogant, at best. I really suggest you pick it back up, as it is an enjoyable book that certainly stands apart from The Dresden Files.

Graeme Flory said...

Elfy - That struck me too... :o)

MammonAzrael - Did I say that I put it down after three pages...? Erm... no, no I didn't. Reading back through what I've written, I can see how it looks that way. I should have been clearer perhaps but certainly read a lot more than three pages. Not claiming it's a review either, not if I didn't finish the book.
I'm glad you enjoyed it though. 'Fated' is still on my shelf so I might give it another go in the near future :o)

MammonAzrael said...

Fair enough. I assumed it was a review given the title of your blog (which I'm admittedly new to), but if it's just your impressions from what you read...I can understand that.

Compared to Dresden (which certainly is the most obvious point of comparison), I think that Fated is a possibly a stronger first book than Storm Front, and I highly recommend that you keep an open mind about Verus and his world. They are two distinct characters and universes.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. The book is hopelessly derivative and is essentially just Dresden Files fan fiction. I wish I'd kept the receipt.

Lord of the Night said...

I disagree completely. Having read the novel, and reviewed it on The Founding Fields, I felt it was a great start to a very promising series and is nothing like The Dresden Files.

I would encourage you to pick the book up again. And truthfully the homage to Butcher is just that, a passing remark meant as a joke. There is a similar homage in a Supernatural novel but that hardly makes them the same world.

Anonymous said...

Is this review a joke?

It's fine if you don't like a book, but you're practically judging it by it's cover. You didn't even get 10 pages in.

It "started to feel" like a Dresden files book because of a silly reference? You didn't even read any further! How could you possibly make a judgement on that?

I actually wanted to find some review that tell me if the book is decent before I decide to buy it. The only thing your review tells me is what an idiot you are.

Graeme Flory said...

Anon - Read what I wrote, just read it (and what I wrote in the comments)before resorting to childish name calling. You'll just make yourself look really stupid otherwise... Oh wait, you just did.

If you hadn't got all riled up straight away you would have noticed...

1) I got a lot further than ten pages in before putting the book down. Just because I found a reference early on doesn't mean that I stopped reading at that very point.

2) It wasn't a review, I said it wasn't a review. What you read were my impressions on what I read and why I didn't go any further. I'm certainly entitled to make a judgment on what I've read, never claimed it was for the whole book either.

Do yourself a favour, actually read stuff in future before having a rant. Saves you looking like an idiot and will probably help your blood pressure as well :o)