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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Ghost of a Chance - Simon R. Green I am going to assume, given his long body of work and fan base, that Simon R. Green is capable of writing a damn fine yarn. I'm going to assume that Ghost of a Chance is the result of the unfortunate intersection of an author getting a nice, fat advance for a story proposal with that author's inability to connect with his characters. Because--day-yum--this was bad.

There are some neat ideas in Ghost of a Chance--the fusion of technology and magic, elder gods who are more "real" than reality--but they are buried in the layers of a shit sandwich of repetition.

Enter our intrepid heroes from the Carnacki Institute. The Carnacki Institute being the run-of-the-mill secret agency devoted to hunting paranormal beasties and ghoulies. (Hey, I can't knock the trope; I've used it my stories.) First, there JC Chance, the suave leader who is too confident for his team's good. Then there's Melody, the geek girl, who cares more about high tech gadgetry than people. And finally, there's the ironically named, Happy, an over-medicated, neurotic psychic.

That, folks, is the extent of characterization. In lieu of giving the characters any kind of character arc, any real personality, the narrative instead reminds the reader, incessantly, that JC is confident; Melody loves technology; and Happy is ... unhappy. Over and over. Dialogue consists of witty banter, which, after about 20-pages, moves from clever to tiresome. Basically, Happy moans and groans, begging to take his pills; JC tells him, "No, be strong," and Melody scowls and announces that her machines are picking up massive readings, power she's never seen before.

This, for 260 pages.

JC is the only one who gets character development, in the form of an awkward and unbelievable love story. First, there's a brief mention of how JC, for all his urbane charms, has never been in love and therefore, is really a sad, sad fellow. A few pages later, he meets the ghost of a beautiful girl and falls into too-stupid-to-live love. He runs off to save ghost girl from the villain, leaving the rest of his team to fight their rivals from the evil Crowley Project. (Erik and Natasha, also cardboard characters, are nevertheless the most interesting characters in the story. Especially Erik, with his cat's head computer.)

The antagonist is the standard, ultimate-evil-out-to-destroy-all-that-is-good-and-fuzzy archetype, right down to the evil "Bwah-ha-ha" laugh. The imagery is vivid and gory, but unoriginal, "hellish" stuff. Demons, blood, and more blood. As a reader who grew up on a steady diet of Stephen King and other horror writers, I found it downright mild.

I may give Green's Nightside novels a try, but this is the first and only Ghost Finders novels for me.