Regular readers will remember my thoughts on the James Bond opening. Everything I said in that rant applies to the opening sequence of The Pull. Intense Stuff is happening, and it’s happening fast, so we are supposed to feel drawn in and intrigued. Plus, it’s all happening in a quasi-dreamscape, so everything is vague and mysterious. All of the problems with the fast-paced scene are multiplied by Morris’ deliberate haziness to simulate a dream sequence, and the reader is left wondering what the hell is happening to who where, and why should I care? If I hadn’t already promised to review The Pull, I’d have chucked the whole damned book right there.
After that paragraph, my legions of hate are sharpening their blades, waiting to jump on me for going off the rails on another book. Back! Back ye demons! You’ll get no satisfaction from me today!
The thing is, I’m glad I committed to this review before reading the book. It made me power through the bad opening to the actual story. You see, once we’re done with that horrible opening, we get an actual book. My commenting on how atrocious the opening is exists simply to try to move you, like me, past the excerpt you can pull off Amazon and get the book that lies behind it, because that book is delicious.
It’s well-grounded, and we get to know the character Maggie very well. Maggie is written in the first person (unlike the opening), and she begins the book as a pretty normal teenage girl. She’s a bit of a tomboy, and proud of it. She wears Converses and reads Huxley. She’s got issues with her parents’ divorce, but she’s dealing with them, not breaking down. There’s a layer of strength there that we don’t see in a lot of this kind of book. Maggie is not in this book simply to be a lens through which we see the world; she’s a player in these games of power, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Where many other female teenage characters would falter, Maggie steps up and takes the reins. She has her moments of indecision, but that’s all they are. Moments. That’s a bit of a refreshing change, and I really enjoyed it.
And she’s having dreams. We find quickly that these dreams are a gateway between realities, and the book becomes a solid presentation in the teenage-girl-different-world genre, a classic for a reason. Morris has built a complicated cosmology, and it shows. Chapter headings from various pieces of canonical history serve the same functions as, say, anything written by Princess Irulan. They give the reader a sense of the larger world that Maggie is just starting to explore. Especially early on, the reader knows more about these fantastic new settings than Maggie does.
At first, that felt weird. After all, the point of the girl-in-a-new-world genre is to explore the worldwith the girl. Once I got used to it, though, I realized that Morris has actually done something rather brilliant. By giving the reader the information through other channels, Maggie is freed from the lens function I talked about earlier, and can be more of an active player. It doesn’t stand the genre on its head, but it does provide for a unique spin on it, and I loved it.
Now, there are some issues. There are incidents in the book with more tell than show, and Morris can wax eloquent about someone’s eyes for longer than even I can (and just ask Ms. Bolich, that’s an issue for me in rough drafts). The book needs an editor to do a once-over on it; it’s a good book that would be great with a little polish. Still, it’s a first novel, and with the size of the cosmology that Morris has set up there is plenty of room for more. If she puts just a little more polish into her next book, she’s quickly going to break into my top-5 list of Indie Authors That Aren’t Me.
This is book one in an as-yet incomplete series, but I’m signed on to read book two when it’s out. It’s a great world, and a great main character. Definitely worth the read. Just…ignore the prologue, pretend it doesn’t exist, start at “Chapter One,” and enjoy.