Saturday, July 31, 2010

Richard Castle's "Heat Wave"

The 48 Hour Read-A-Thon started last night with a chat on twitter. Used to hanging around comics and manga folks, I was a little intimidated by the book bloggers. Everyone encouraged me to work at my own pace and not get too hung up on what everyone else was doing. Blogging and reviewing doesn't come nearly as naturally for me as twitter, so I think this event will be good for that.

Last night I started my reading with what I considered a fairly easy read – Richard Castle's Heat Wave. As a fan of the series, I was curious how they bridged the two worlds. I finished it earlier today. For such a slim volume, Heat Wave left me with a lot more conflicting emotions than I anticipated.

There appear to be two types of tie-in novels. One is the "case file" books where tie-in writers give us additional adventures of the same characters. They have the advantage of having familiar characters and settings. This style really relies on the skill of the individual writer in capturing the style of the particular series. Some do this extremely well. Some clearly do not. And then there's the "as appeared in" tie-in books. These are books that actually appear in the series/movie that have been magically turned into a real book by some enterprising publisher. The problem they sometimes have is not living up to their billing.

With Heat Wave, the book feels like an uncomfortable compromise between the two styles. On the one hand, it's a thinly veiled Castle murder mystery. But the tv series has pushed and teased and promised Rick Castle's Nikki Heat series, so this is what we wind up with.

This unfortunate mish-mash doesn't do the tv show any favors. Why? Because "Castle" has pushed "Rick Castle" the professional writer, a mystery/thriller writer at the end of creative rope after his last series. Heat Wave as shown to us feels like a bad "file the serial numbers off" fiction for me where the names are changed, but the personalities and quirks are basically the same. Call me crazy, but I don't think Castle would take such an easy way out.

Castle's biggest draw as a show for me are the characters. They have a bountiful array of fun and quirky characters, especially the women. I kept trying not to hear the actors' voices when I was reading their lines, but it was impossible the way it was written. The biggest change with Rook was making him less gifted an amateur sleuth. I'm tired of seeing cops portrayed as idiots in mysteries, so it's nice seeing Heat's team get some respect. That said I hated calling Raley & Ochoa "Roach", it was dumb and it got old very fast. I love Kate Beckett, so seeing Nikki Heat was painful. This was not the strong and witty and determined cop I used to. I couldn't quite warm up to Nikki. And I could have lived without the "woman in peril" scene they seem to always do with female leads -- was that really necessary?

When I said this felt like a thinly-veiled episode of Castle, I could literally see "the twist" coming. If you've watched mysteries or procedurals on television, you know what I mean. The cops or investigators think they have it solved, but there's still time on the clock and then the final plot twist is revealed and everyone's wrong. I stopped watching NCIS because I could literally predict the point when Ducky or Abby would give Gibbs that last clue and he'd go "It's not who we thought it was". This book was no exception.

Heat Wave is a fun book, but ultimately falls short because of what it's trying to be. I'd almost rather read the Castle and Beckett tandem and imagine what the Nikki Heat books are really like to reading this. This just makes me want to watch the series and appreciate what a wonderful character Kate Beckett can be.

(Richard Castle, Heat Wave, Hyperion Books, 2009, 208 pages, available in mass market paperback)

1 comment:

Wallace said...

Well it looks to me like you are doing a great job blogging! I'm really glad you have joined in and am looking forward to reading more of your reviews.