GIVEAWAY ALERT: Leave a comment on this post, expressing anything of your choosing about this review, author, or novel, to enter for the chance to win a hardcover copy of Kim Harrison’s The Drafter. A winner will be selected at random at 11:59pm. Thursday, September 10, 2015. Only those living in the US are eligible to enter, apologies in advance for international fans/readers of this blog.
Book Synopsis(Taken from Simon & Schuster Product Detail Page):
In the first explosive book in the Peri Reed Chronicles, Kim Harrison, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Hollows series, blazes a new frontier with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Detroit 2030. Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her to use her body as a weapon, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run. Don’t forgive and never forget has always been Peri’s creed. But her day job makes it difficult: she is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote. When Peri discovers her name is on a list of corrupt operatives, she realizes that her own life has been manipulated by the agency. Her memory of the previous three years erased, she joins forces with a mysterious rogue soldier in a deadly race to piece together the truth about her fateful final task. Her motto has always been only to kill those who kill her first. But with nothing but intuition to guide her, will she have to break her own rule to survive? – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-Drafter/Kim-Harrison/The-Peri-Reed-Chronicles/9781501108693#sthash.icQCMSXN.dpuf
I’ve never read any of Kim Harrison’s novels before, so her newest thriller novel (the first of which is not urban fantasy, which her very popular Hollow series falls under) The Drafters that has just been released this past Tuesday is the first time I’ve ever ventured into any of her books. I must admit my preconceived notions of her books would be that they’d probably feature certain familiar staples of urban fantasy: the feisty,voluptuous female lead, some shadowy guild or coroporation of demons, vampires, and the like that are amoral in their conduct, excessive amounts of Whedonesque style bantering. First off, this book is not urban fantasy, but I do find it pertinent to note that The Drafters has the unique challenge of being the first title from a writer that has worked within the mold of urban fantasy for countless years, and I think that these aforementioned tropes sorta haunt The Drafters, keeping it from being as stellar and awesome as it could have been otherwise.
The Drafter’s lead female character Peri Reed is the story’s main protagonist, and one could say that she is feisty, snarky, and is often described as a voluptuous, agile beauty that every other male character seems to be entirely in love with (I’ll speak more on the problems with that below), and this is one of the more persistent tropes throughout this story that often plagued the work with a certain odor of staleness and deja-vu. Meaning if you’ve read through enough Richelle Mead on a weekend urban fantasy stint, you’ll most literally catch onto to these fairly familiar tropes, which I like to think is what makes this an exceedingly hard book to get into, if you are familiar at all with the tropes with urban fantasy stories. The biggest problem is that Kim Harrison clearly wrote this book as a futuristic scifi thriller, and the plot itself does have some very well-developed mechanics to it, though the drafting element can be a little too convoluted at times, especially right from the outset of the novel, when you’re puzzling over just how the hell it all works.
About those male characters with awesome physiques and insatiable lust for sleek, brazen, mouthy female leads, I just think that we can do more justice to our female characters in these types of books. Peri is described as being powerful, but yet she is almost a tad too powerless throughout the book, and she is entirely dependent on men at some points to regain that metaphoric sense of self (all her anchors are men, who also lust after her w/ no real explanation beside she is a standout hottie). I feel this is one of those tropes that needs to go in this genre. Peri Reed could have been a bit more quirky and realistic, and the male characters could have been more than “doing things to help her, all for the hope of getting her in bed.” This was a major problem I had with this story because I personally wish for more realistic, well-shaped characters for both genders. And this trope does affect both genders because it implies all men are raving sex machines,who can not have friendships, or chaste relationships of any kind with any feisty, brazen harlot type of urban fantasy female character. Even though this book is categorized under the scifi thriller genre, this trope alone within this book seems more “urban fantasy-ish” than anything. It’s one trope that makes me sometimes a little hesistant about the urban fantasy genre, as a whole.
And there was too much emphasis on the binary gender hierarchy with this whole scheme of the drafter/anchor. This would have been done much better, and more interestingly, if raised as an issue that the character consciously struggles with, rather than something so commonplace in the story that it is depicted as normal, typical. Personally I don’t really like the connotations of the anchor being mostly men in the story, and the one drafter being female who constantly loses her memory, and has to get those memories bad from these stronger men, who often use it for the malicious purpose of contriving her to become not just attached, but irrevocably in love with them. It was a disturbing plot point that didn’t get developed enough satisfactorily, as to the inherent problems, and it becomes sorta something just far too normalized in the story. Though I don’t really think the notion of a female drafter, altering time, being completely dependent on men to “alter her memories” to help him remember what she has forgotten, to something other than sorta a strange, and even unimaginative scheme. Again, the story does comment on a little later on, but for the better half of this novel, it is done without the needed development in the narrative to allow for room for thought on the implications of this kind of patriarchical power-play relationship. My biggest question was “Can she have a female drafter, by chance? Does it have to be a hulky, domineering male character, who lusts after her?”
Impressively, the writing, in terms of the action, and exposition, are measured and fluid, and Kim Harrison does obviously have a very good handle on her prose. It is never verbose, even when some of the concepts like drafting and the psychology of it often becomes just a little too nebulous and confusing for the reader. Nonetheless, drafting in of itself is a remarkably neat concept, where characters endowed with that disposition to alter time, can use it at the cost of forgetting a certain relatively larger span of memories associated with past history in a certain dimensional thread of sorts they’re manipulating. One of the biggest logical hangups that I myself had with this concept was How the hell can someone psychologically alter time? Sorry, but I had a lot of trouble trying to conceptualize this, and perhaps people that are not prone to overthinking will go with it, especially the whole equally confusing notion of the anchors, who serve as support for the drafters, in that they can somehow consciously remember what parts of the parallel timelines that the drafter can alter. Again, all of this was needlessly over-complicated, sometimes very confusing, and I don’t think the mechanism worked so well, especially in the first 100 or so pages, which were very interminable. Kim Harrison obviously had a lot of plot-related groundwork to lay down in these pages, which makes sense, and I think that there was no other way for it to progress but be a bit slow. It’s remarkably similar to how almost all of Joss Whedon’s show are, insofar that almost any pilot episode of any of his series are notoriously dull, slow, and unremarkable. Joss Whedon may be an excellent writer, but his greatest flaw is finding a way to balance the excess with interesting, complex characters that do not become overwrought, confusing, and dry/unappealing in the process.
I think it was worth it to keep reading, as some things get rectified later on, even though I still had a major problem with the fact every male character seems to be inexplicably in love, or enamored with the sleek, sexy, snarky Peri Reed, and perhaps that is an ineluctable issue of the storyline being written by a writer who is trying a wholly different genre, apart from her usual urban fantasy schtick. So it sometimes feels like a scifi thriller, entrenched in a urban fantasy mold at times. Yet this urban fantasy mold also allows Kim Harrison to write electrifying, great action sequences, and lay down exposition that doesn’t slow things down too much. But with reference to the drafting thing, I feel the concept was just so muddled for at least the first 200 pages, as every character struggled with a mechanic that was just too needlessly complicated to fully understand/comprehend. This made it hard for me, at least, to feel entirely immersed into the work as a whole, so I definitely hope the drafting issue, as well as the plot about the shadowy government corporation, becomes much less convoluted.
Speaking of the main antagonist, the shadowy corporation, the government agency that hires out drafters as mercenaries was another plot line that seemed just a tad bit recycled from a Joss Whedon program, particularly Angel when we’re dealing with Wolfram and Hart. One of the biggest problems with that show, as well as this book, is that the story sometimes makes these shadowy corporation so shadowy that they don’t feel like a realistic, formidable threat. They’re just shadowy, mysterious, operating on their elusivity, to the point where the specific shadowy corporation in The Drafters, for example, often has certain ambiguities easily explained away with “Oh, they’re shadowy and elusive…” I was utterly confused at points, as there are just too many agents with too many sketchy, diametrically opposed motives one has to wonder just how this corporation could have stayed in operation so long, with no real firm control. This seems to again completely defy logic, and it makes the reader feel detached and uninterested in the story, as there is no real sense of an overarching sense of organization and logic within the story.
As you can see by this review, I am being fairly critical, and I must admit that this specific genre is my specialty, in that I have the easiest time teasing out problems, and articulating them. I actually look forward to reading the next installment, in hopes that some of these problems that I saw (and that you might think differently about) may get resolved within the next book. The Drafters suffers mostly from being too overly ambitious with its whole timey-wimey, somewhat nonsensical time reworking concept, along with too much continued fidelity to certain recognizable urban fantasy tropes. I hope we get more development with Peri, particularly with her relationships with the different male characters. Personally, I think that the whole notion of every guy being drawn to her sexually just defies logic and imagination. So maybe we’ll get more nuance with this in the next installment. For the most part, the prose is actually the strongest part of this book-it is tidy, measured, and fluid at just the right moments. This solid new novel from Kim Harrison is largely an average book, in my eyes, suffering a little too much from a concept that feels a tad too unrealistic, and characters that feel more like trope-ish urban fantasy caricatures. The end of the book certainly does seem to improve upon these weaknesses, but we’ll have to wait and see with the next installment, as to whether this story has much deeper, more interesting secrets in store for the patient reader out there.
As always, I still recommend that you check this book out, and I’d love to hear dissenting opinions, as opinions that are just congruent with mind are just oh so boring. So please leave your comments below, and you’ll even be entered for a chance to win the hardcover copy of this book.