Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reviewing A Geeky Mystery Novel

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss
I have seen every episode of “The Guild.” Twice. And while I write this review I’m watching "Babylon 5."
I play Dungeons and Dragons on a pretty regular basis, and I first started playing RPGs as a teen.
I went to my first "Doctor Who" convention when I was a toddler and knew how to do the Vulcan Salute by the time I was seven.
I am, in every way, the geek "The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss" by Max Wirestone, was written for. Yet even I didn’t get all of the geek-culture-references in it. This book will likely lose any reader who doesn’t own a stack of Pokemon cards.
I have truly struggled to develop a solid opinion of this book. I can’t believe no one else has written a novel with such a great plot (and if you do know of a novel like this one, please send me the title.) Dahlia Moss has been hired to recover a stolen spear, the catch being that the spear is digital, and was stolen in an MMORPG by a man who, within a few pages of hiring Dahlia, ends up dead himself. The story goes from there. 
In some places the writing feels amateurish, in others it seems that is a brilliant and intentional move on the part of the author. On one page I would laugh out loud, while on the next I would cringe. One page would have a great reference to Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows, while the next would have a simile so far out of left field even the geek out there picking daisies couldn’t see it coming.
This book is conversational and comical, written in a first person narrative. Dahlia Moss is an interesting, if not always a believable character. She sits somewhere between Felicia Day and Amy Schumer on the awkwardness scale, but her interactions with other characters fall short of realistic and feel forced, and a bit like the author was trying to create an atmosphere that just didn’t work. For some reason a police officer gives her classified information about a case while pretending he saw it on Netflix, and at another point she tells an interviewer details of the case while applying for a job.
Dahlia’s roommate Charice, who plants electronic bugs on cops and hosts theatrical performances in their common room, is more believable than Dahlia is, and in many ways is this book’s bright light. Rash, unpredictable and eccentric, Charice shows up at just the right moments to give the reader relief from Dahlia’s long, description-riddled storytelling.
In the end, my view of this book is incredibly torn. On the one hand, it really is funny. On the other hand, sometimes the jokes completely miss their mark. The characters are interesting, but too much of the writing feels like it could use a few more edits.

Yet, I know I will be following Wirestone on Twitter and I will be watching for the next thing to come out of his rather unique imagination. This book comes out on October 20th, so look for it, but only if you know why the phrase “Green Flame” would make Wil Wheaton laugh.

What I’m reading next...
Girl Waits With Gun
My Life on the Road

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