Monday, 22 October 2018

Review: Daisy's Run

Daisy's Run Daisy's Run by Scott Baron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't especially surprised to find out, at the end of this book, that the author works in Hollywood (as an on-set doctor). A lot of it only makes sense if you apply Hollywood logic; consists of Hollywood cliches; or makes mistakes that Hollywood makes.

For example, people in real life don't sit bolt upright after they wake from a nightmare. It's a Hollywood cliche, to convey an internal experience in a visual medium.

The far side of the moon is constantly referred to as the "dark side"; anyone who knows any actual astrophysics knows that both sides of the moon get light, in a cycle that produces the phases of the moon. There's even the old myth of human brains using only a fraction of their processing and storage capacity, which a doctor should know is not true.

Things sometimes work in a way that those things simply wouldn't work, because plot and/or cliche. This includes a device that somehow gets more energy out of a system than was put in, covered over by some technobabble. Lights dim when the AI does a complex calculation.

No popular culture is referred to that originates after the book is written, which is a very common fault of this kind of book.

About halfway through I also started to notice that nobody seemed to have any backstory, and the ship was coming from a vague place for vague reasons, without apparently having any cargo or other raison d'etre. That eventually turned out to be kind of a feature, but... well, let me talk about the most annoying thing.

The most annoying thing is a protagonist who seems to go out of her way to cut off anyone who's about to explain what's going on. After she's done this a couple of times, it becomes painfully obvious that the author is doing it to maintain the tension. When she is finally cornered and has to listen to the explanation, at the 90% mark in the book, it turns out that the reason she wasn't told the secret in the first place is... weak.

"Weak" is a good description of a number of plot points, in fact. At one point, people have to travel physically across the solar system to take a message because their electronic systems have been compromised and they might transmit a virus if they used radio. So why not blink a laser on and off in Morse code?

"One millionth of one percent of the population" have a particular feature - which, if you work it out, means 10 people in a billion, so probably fewer than 100 people in all. That seems too few for what it is.

An electronic tablet has wires inside that can be physically rewired with no tools for a different purpose. Have you ever seen inside one of those? No wires.

Most of the book is in tight third person, following the protagonist; and then we get a few random paragraphs in someone else's POV, before returning to our regularly scheduled viewpoint.

Meanwhile, it's become evident that the genre I thought I was getting is not the actual genre (because secret), and the actual genre is one I strongly dislike.

The protagonist is ridiculously over-powered, possessing every conceivable skill that could help her; there is (eventually, at that 90% mark) an explanation for this, but even then it's clear that she's done things she ought not to be able to do, for vague reasons.

She's also prejudiced, against machines and people who have machine parts (which nearly all her shipmates do). Making your viewpoint character irrationally prejudiced is not a good way to endear her to the reader, even if you feel you have to do so to drive the plot.

A lot of convenient plot points are not foreshadowed until immediately before they become relevant, which (added to everything else) makes me suspect that the book wasn't plotted in advance, but discovery-written, with the author not knowing for a long time what was going on either. Now, discovery-written books can be just as good as plotted books, but only if you put the work in afterwards to do your foreshadowing and make everything make sense, as if you'd plotted it from the start. It shouldn't be possible to tell the difference. (Of course, now that I've said that, the author will probably tell me that I'm wrong and he did plot it through from the start. It doesn't read that way, though.)

There are some pluses. The action keeps moving (apart from some repetitive infodumping near the beginning). The author contrives - and it is a bit contrived - to give the protagonist another woman to talk to, even though she's physically on her own for most of the book. But on the whole, the weaknesses outweighed the strengths for me. The plot is a thin skin over an obtrusive skeleton, and is forced along by one unlikely thing after another, hitting a bunch of stupid cliches on the way through.

I received a copy via Netgalley for review.

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