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Less than Spellbinding

December 24, 2009

You’ve probably seen at least one airing of the commercial for James Patterson’s newest book, “Witch and Wizard”. Therefore, in the interests of science, and the fact that I carpool to work and sit around on my brain for hours whilst waiting for my shift to begin, and I had writer’s block for the first time in months, I borrowed the book from my sister (who borrowed it from the neighbors) and sat down to read it.

So, what do I think?

Well, I gotta hand it to Jimmy; the man knows the value of teamwork. Take a stroll over to Wikipedia (yes, what a fountain of unquestionably factual knowledge!) and you’ll see that the list of Jimmy Patts’ co-authors stretches on into literary oblivion. Not to say that there is ANY harm in collaborating with someone on a book; in fact, tip of the hat to anyone with enough patience to share the reins with another writer. Not me; I won’t even tell people the title of my work without a fight. But really, Jimbo, can you write something on YOUR OWN for once? Granted the man cranks books out like clockwork, but come ON. For some writers, I think it might be fun to see their name on a cover with James Patterson, but he needs to take a step away from the writer’s collaborative round table and do some real writing on his own.

But enough of that. “Maximum Ride”, Patterson’s fiction series that centers around the lives of four mutant kids with wings (and their winged, talking dog), has become hugely popular, and has even been slotted to become a film. Patterson’s characters are witty, funny, emotional, and, at times, intimidating in their bravery. All lovely characteristics, yes. And the authorial voice in the stories is fantastic! So, when picking up “Witch and Wizard”, I was hoping for a similar style. And I got it. As in, I thought I was reading another installment in the MR series. Which is fine and dandy; I like the MR books. But I wasn’t reading an extension of the series; I was reading a completely different story.

Where “Maximum Ride” is as action-packed as its cover declares and its descriptions take your mind from dizzying heights to dark caves to conflicts with terrifying, murderous villains, “Witch and Wizard” contained an abysmally small amount of description. Sorry to burst your bubbles. For the majority of the time that I spent reading the story, I had to flip back to previous chapters to remind myself of where the characters were at the time, which, admittedly, wasn’t too bad, because hey!, the chapters were each less than five pages long. Which, when you have the two main characters taking turns at narrating the story, makes it very difficult to follow with limited description. Some (like my sister) would argue that the description is thin to give the reader freedom to “imagine”, but there’s a fine line between giving the reader imaginative reign and just plan leaving them in the dark. Frankly, I’d rather give my reader something to picture than leave them wondering what something as mundane as the bathroom looks like. I miss James Patterson’s old habit of explaining places, people, and his character’s emotional states in vivid detail.

His male and female protagonists seem a wee bit cookie-cuttered to me. Wisty, the witch, (that rolls off the tongue, actually!) is very much like the title character in Maximum Ride in her snide remarks and penchant for generally disturbing the peace, which is not a bad thing, honestly. Whit is the standard male, sporty hunk type (yes, the word “hunk” was actually used to describe the character in the story) who has lost “the love of his life” (the kid’s seventeen, FYI). It seems that a bit more thought was put into Wisty’s character.Yes, they can both, at times, be very amusing and quite entertaining characters, but their clichéd dialogue (including a laughable reference to the “Maximum Ride” series, which keeps popping up in this post, for some reason) is very dry and not very believable most of the time.

Patterson says, and I quote directly from the back cover of this book, “This is the story I was born to tell.” Well, while the concept behind the story and the bare-bones plot isn’t bad, I think Jimmy got a little too caught up in putting the story on paper and neglected to really WRITE it.  There’s a difference between “fast-paced” and “rushed”, as in, “too much action, not enough plot”. Mr. Patterson, you really should have someone seriously proofread your work for things that go beyond than spelling errors. If this is THE story, put some heart and soul into it!

Overall, this book gets a C from me. While the concept was great, I really don’t think he took enough time to develop the plot and the characters. I think James Patterson needs a little vacation from writing for now; he needs to take the time to sit down with his next manuscript and REALLY, REALLY plan it out, and get back to being the creative writer he is. He needs to either put his heart back into it, or just give it up. This is not to say that there was NOTHING interesting in the book, but it got lost in the slush pile of a convoluted plotline and overly scripted dialogue.

One saving grace, though; If you pick this book up at the bookstore, take a look at the “Excerpts of NEW ORDER PROPOGANDA” in the back. It really is hilarious! If you understand the references, that is.

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