Protagonists — main characters if you will — should never be stupid. No matter how good your basic plot line, no matter how sound your syntax, if you want your readers to bond with your fictional people — DON’T, please, give us dullards and dummies who couldn’t think their way through a first grade primer, or be observant enough to collect their quota of eggs at an Easter egg hunt.
And yet, W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear are bestselling authors. I haven’t even finished the book and I’m tempted to fling it across the room. Their novel, Raising Abel, is a suspense/thriller about the manipulation of human genes. The authors know somewhat of their scientific craft, Michael being a physical anthropologist and Kathleen a historian/archaelogist. And yet, my intelligence is insulted and outraged every few pages.
Let’s set aside for the moment the not-so-subtle jibes about the intelligence of people who believe in Divine creation, because, though I loathe that kind of reverse preaching through fictional characters, that is not what I’m here to talk about.
I want to talk about flawed fiction writing. Especially dragging out the plot through characters such as those described above. The best of the FBI and other crime fighters abound. And yet, when murders occur in different areas with the same M.O., the concensus is, — it could be coincidence.
Okay. The murders may have occurred in different areas, but the victims were nailed to the floor, tortured, and their house burned down on top of them. Call me paranoid, but I don’t believe in that kind of coincidence, no way, no how. But the word “coincidence” came up several times because the FBI did not want to appear paranoid. Heck. That’s their job description. It also kept the story dragging its tail because the agents piddled around the periphery of the case while more characters got killed. The reason for the Feebs being shackled was supposed to be because they were gun shy. Not wanting to think “conspiracy” much less act upon the word.
Okay. Let us continue on in what I call “ostrich plotting”. When characters start getting tortured and capped, while others are fleeing for their lives, one of their prize agents disappears. No one can get him on his house phone or his mobile (this book was published 13 years ago). He hasn’t shown up for work in two days even though he’s a workaholic. But the Bureau thinks nothing of it because years before this agent was an ALCOholic. So even though his boss works incredibly long hours, this fearless leader takes time for his kid’s ball game, which is out of character for him; he takes time to enjoy mowing his lawn, and just generally forgets the missing agent altogether.
Let’s go on to Scene 4, Stage Two. (Maybe if this was a play I could walk out). One group of victims are on the run — a man, two women, and a child. While in their hideaway, they call the FBI agent, not knowing he is in the hands of the bad guys. They reach his answering machine, give their phone number and location, and wait for the call back. They get a call back. The person on the phone says he’s the Special Agent. But one woman knows the agent’s voice and says that’s not him.
Still they stick around the house until they finally discover their phone now has no service. Instead of thinking the line might be cut, they decide they will contact the phone company later. By this time, I’m ready to shoot the adults myself because the kid is smarter than they are. But, noooo. I’m a glutton for punishment. When the bullets start flying from a shooter who doesn’t miss, one woman (who has been told to stay put) goes running across the killing field to grab the phone. The one they already know is dead. Unfortunately, she lived.
On still another unintelligent note, at least two characters have vital information, yet they don’t want to share it in time to be used. They are just dying to get themselves killed first so the plot can drag on. There are ways to keep vital information floating without such obvious stupidity. I might let it slide once. But, for the love of literature, not twice.
I could go on and on but I’m too disgusted. Yeah. Yeah. I’ll finish the book. It has a good basic story. But if I had known how many frustrating episodes there were, I would not even have started reading it. I do not recommend Raising Abel, by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear.