Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Excelsior by George Sirois

3 stars.  

I liked it. I'll throw 4 stars at Amazon because I hate their social engineering scheme that calls 3 of 5 a "low" rating,  but this isn't a 4-star book for me. It's solidly middle-of-the-pack. 

Here's the snapshot evaluation: good, sturdy workmanlike prose, tidy plot firmly grounded in action and visuals,  tropes as old as time and conflicts as emotionally satisfying as watching Bugs outwit Elmer. I knew where this was going from about page 5 onward, but it was still a fun trip. The action is visual and visceral, and there's plenty of it. The book is cheesy popcorn popcorn from start to finish. I ate it up and ripped open the bag to get every last little bit out of the bottom.

Make sure you read the afterword. The essay has tremendous emotional depth, vivid writing, and a beautiful  the story itself never quite managed. It's a heart-punch of a read all on its own.

Sounds great, right? Why only three stars? Ahem. Well.

I love cheese popcorn, but it gives me indigestion. Excelsior's plot didn't challenge my predictive skills at any point, neither the world-building nor the mcguffins at the center of the action were unique enough to make me sit up and take notice, and the villains were as villainous as Snidely Whiplash. The writing also ticked every annoying prose quirk on my ever-growing list at least once. Saidisms. Characters were always feeling and watching and seeing rather than events just happening. All the shrugging and sitting and turning and shaking heads tired me out. I have no tolerance for "As you may not know, Ms Ratchet, this is the Widget history..." followed by long blurbs of history.

Sounds awful, right? Why give it three stars?  Answer: BECAUSE I STILL LIKED IT. Yup. All those flaws, and I still gobbled it down. I can love a new sweater and still pick at the weave. I can enjoy a beautiful sunset and still squint at the glare. I can torture a metaphor to death and still feel remorse. I love B movies even while I can poke fun at them. 

This is a glorious B-movie of a book begging for screen adaptation. The plot holes and basic prose, the shallow character development and time-worn tropes-- all those disappear on screen when the pace is fast enough, and this book has pace to spare. Predictable, prosy, over-written stuff can be rollicking fun of done just right, and Excelsior is GOOD fun.

I did mention action, yeah? Excelsior packs plenty of punch, and that's like a cloak covering a multitude of other ills. Its subject matter and style also make it completely accessible to a broad audience. Anyone with a soft spot for the "coming-of-age, tapped for greatness out of obscurity" tales should snag this right away. (Me, I started with an exasperated moment of  "Seriously? Again?" But that's on me.) 

Excelsior does what it sets out to do, and does it well. If the blurb appeals, the story will suck you in and make you want more. I know I'll be checking out the author's other series and soon. 

The End. Drop curtain.

Link to purchase: Excelsior book page on Amazon
Link to George Sirois' Amazon author page: GeorgeSirois on Amazon

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