Saturday, July 8, 2017

When the Devil Drives, by Melinda Snodgrass

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(Superhero; Wild Cards) The wildcard virus turned Noel into a shapeshifting, teleporting hermaphrodite. Although retired from the spy business, he reverts to old habits when someone tries to frame him for murder. (12,983 words; Time: 43m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

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"," by (edited by George R.R. Martin), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: It’s a murder mystery, and Noel follows various clues until he has all the answers.

Con: There are three fatal problems with this story. First, the hero is a Mary Sue who knows he’s a Mary Sue. That is, he’s all-powerful and all-confident. We simply sit back and watch him effortlessly unravel the mystery.

The writing itself is substandard. Almost immediately, the story inflicts a massive infodump on the readers, and it’s mostly stuff of zero importance to the story. This is not an aberration: way, way too much of the story is narrated to that point that it often feels like we’re reading the Wikipedia synopsis of a story, not the story itself.

Third, rather than telling readers what happened, it often descends to telling us what to think. E.g “greed and a lifetime of feeling untouchable made him continue.”

There are some technical elements that break suspension of disbelief. Most notably, The description of the hacking attack is painfully dumb to anyone who knows anything about how computers actually work.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 07/05/17)
Melinda Snodgrass Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. First disappointing Wild Cards story for me. A good mystery finds the sweet spot between obvious who-done-it and totally opaque to the reader. This is one of the later; you just have to sit back and watch Noel neatly connect the dots. And some of the dot connecting still didn't make a lot of sense.

    One part in particular was seriously TMI and totally irrelevant.

    The side story of his family life irked me. He didn't really strike me as someone who would stay away from his family for their own good. And sure enough, just when I was really convinced that they were better off, he goes back to them.

    I feel like this wild card could have such potential to explore something interesting, but that certainly didn't happen here.

    It was nice to see Rusty for a few seconds.

  2. The comments at Tor make me wonder if they just crowdsourced copy editing.