Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vanish 2: Good points

Note: For reasons I don't understand, this post was not published this morning according to schedule. I apologize for the delay.

So on to the good points of Tom Pawlik’s Vanish.

A positive negative. The main strength, to my mind, is a negative, like congratulating someone for not throwing up on your carpet. And to explain, I'll have to digress a bit.

Vanish is listed as "suspense," which can mean anything from "a page-turner" to "something so nauseating the writer should be put away for life." (For the curious: Vanish is the first, not the second. Resume breathing.) But it's an annoyingly vague, catch-all genre. So to end some of the suspense, I'll note that a story with faceless humanoids that lurk whispering in the shadows and only evince mouths by a process like tearing skin--such a story is horror.

That's not inherently bad. Properly done, horror can be deeply theological, and Vanish does a good job. (I'll get to a theological complaint tomorrow, but this works far better than I might have feared.) And that gives the back-handed compliment that matters most to me: Pawlik doesn't do anything obnoxious or stupid. This is no small feat. Most horror and thriller writers seem entranced with the sheer ickiness of their subject, but while Vanish is certainly suspenseful, it isn't gross and doesn't glorify violence or evil. I can actually recommend it to friends, which is uncommon these days.

Suspense as such. A page-turner, that is. I've already said it, but it bears repeating. This is not the sort of book you'll put down easily, and it isn't a good choice if you have other things to do. If you have time to sit and read--if you want a beach book or have a long plane ride--it's an excellent choice.

Characters. These are generally strong and well developed, and I at least cared whether they lived or died. There's a little unevenness in the development: Conner, Helen, and Mitch all have the same kind of Dark Secret in their past, and how they deal with it influences their destiny, with a little more distance granted those with less-happy outcomes. But the outcomes matter, just as the characters do.

Tomorrow we'll look at some weak points.

In the meantime, for anyone interested, my novella Galatea is available for download in PDF form.

Time for another look into the netherworld of the CSFF blog tour...
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Donita K. Paul
Epic Rat
Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler


Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Another excellent post.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Glad to read your opinions, Steve. You always mention things others don't comment about. Makes me think.


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