Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Boys are Back in Town

Just finished reading Christopher Golden's The Boys are Back in Town. Very atmospheric, really pulled me in. Fast read, good ending.

Magic plays a major role in the story, which is a big plus for me, since I'm a big fan of the paranormal and supernatural suspense. Some of the references to magic in this book bother me, though. The phrase, "Magic always costs," used in the latter part of the book, for example. I'd agree that nasty magic always costs, but good magic (healing, helping) doesn't. But, ya know, maybe I'm being too picky. I mean, this is fiction, and it wouldn't be much of a story if the lead character had gotten into good magic while he was in high school. He wouldn't have had any reason to time travel back to fix things. And besides, people often do things in high school that later they wish they hadn't, right?

The other problem was that the magic isn't realistic (I know, some of you think that any magic isn't realistic), but I got caught up in the story enough to willfully suspend my disbelief. Personally, I like the books that make the magic realistic enough that you think, "Gee, maybe that could happen!" but let's face it, magic that close to reality isn't anywhere near as exciting as the magic that has people levitating, creating flames in the palms of their hands, or traveling through time. Golden's magic is a little out there, but it has to be to carry the story, and the story is good enough for me to feel okay about that.

I like Golden's writing a lot, what I've read of it (Straight on 'Til Morning and The Ferryman), and loved it in The Boys are Back in Town, but I noticed a few strange things. (And don't get me wrong -- I'm certainly no expert, and wish I could write half as well as Golden!)

The first was his use of product names in the beginning. I know that some writers do that because they feel that it makes the scene more realistic -- didn't King do that? I think I remember seeing it in some early novels -- but the instances were so close together at one point that my mind just kept repeating the phrase, "product placement" for a couple of pages.

The second was his use of the phrase "scrabble for purchase." I think he used it twice, and the reason this is strange is because I've noticed that phrase before. I can't remember if it's in his books or someone else's, but I noticed it because the phrase caught my attention the very first time I read it in someone else's book. So, I did a Google search to see if I was imagining things. Look at all the hits! Is this a catch-phrase or a literary allusion that I missed? Or does he just think it's a cool phrase? (For all I know, I could have read it for the first time in one of his other books...) Hmmm... Will have to follow some of those Google links.

But all in all, it's a good book. I've never been a teenaged boy, but I've thought that he captures youth and the "coming of age" very well. And besides, this book -- like Straight on 'Til Morning -- is set in Framingham. I grew up there and set my own novel, Darksome Thirst, in Framingham, and am a sucker for books set locally. His occur on the north side of town and mine on the south, and his are set about ten years later than mine, but it's still fun to recognize places and customs.

A good read, even if you're not a local.


Copyright © 2004 Morven Westfield

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