Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This book is gonna kill me...

I get really nervous when I want to review a book and feel like the review itself will turn out really negative.  Everyone writes differently.  Everyone enjoys reading slightly different things.  Which is all as it should be.  But 'This Case Is Gonna Kill Me', by Phillipa Bornikova, just fell flat for me, for a number of reasons.

First off, the profanity was just a bit much.  I can already hear people responding with "it's more realistic" or other comments along those lines.  Here's the thing: if profanity doesn't bother you, that's fine.  It bothers me.  Some of my favorite authors have managed to write amazing best-sellers with a minimum of profanity, or even none at all.  Lack of profanity probably almost never loses readers for an author.  But I'm probably not going to check out any future books from this author, for this reason alone.

The two fairly explicit sex scenes, which I honestly wasn't expecting but probably should have, didn't help matters.

The underlying premise itself was interesting enough that I pushed through the book regardless.  I was so hopeful for an amazing twist at the end.  The blurb description of the book practically sets you up for one. Let me explain.

First, the basic setup.  In the world this book inhabits, Vampires, Werewolves, and Alfar (elves/fae essentially), collectively known as The Powers, went public thirty years ago.  It's now a mostly accepted part of daily life that normal humans are not alone in this world.  Our protagonist, Linnet Ellery, is starting her new job at a high-powered 'White-Fang' (i.e. vampire-owned and run) law firm.

Then, we get this little nugget on the book description (emphasis added):

But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there’s apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe…

First off, if your protagonist escapes life-and-death scenarios through 'increasingly improbably' circumstances, I expect there to be a reason for it.  I know I'm not that lucky, and most likely neither is anyone that I know or have ever met.  From a literary standpoint it starts to feel very much like a Deus ex machina: she survives because the plot demands it, not because she has done or learned anything to make it believable.

Then, to say that there is 'more to her than even she knows', I expected some big reveal that she was a previously unknown supernatural being.  But no.  She's just really determined and spunky and smart.  Which are all good characteristics to have, but not what I really expected given the buildup.  It actually made everything in the book feel cheap and disappointing.

And the fact that nothing about 'the system' got anything near 'shaken up' by the end of the book made it worse.  She won her cases, because she's a determined, smart, feisty lawyer.  That is not shaking up the system.

My final annoyance with the book stemmed from the supernatural sexism.  Never thought I'd write that phrase.  The Vampires and Werewolves are a strictly boys-club only.  To the point that even biting, let alone attempt to actually create, a female Vampire/Werewolf, results in a death penalty for the creator as well as the created.  Several conversations bring this up over the course of the book, all of which lead to the characters shrugging and saying something along the lines of 'oh, they must be really old-fashioned'.

With the amount of time spent in the book in those conversations, about an actually potentially interesting twist, that it amounts to absolutely nothing in the book is massively disappointing.  Which pretty much sums up how I felt about the entire book.

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