Sinclair, Linnea. Finders Keepers. New York: Bantam, 2008. Paperback. 2005. +453 pages. $6.99
I meant for this to be a review of In Too Deep and Quicksilver, but I picked up Finders Keepers at lunch today, and it was just dying for a review. So In Too Deep and Quicksilver will have to wait, because this was just too good not to review.
To be honest, I almost put it down when I picked it up. For several reasons. First of all, I had a sneaking suspicion that Sinclair had read too many Star Wars book. Why?
Well, the ship our heroine, Trilby Elliot, owns is called the Careless Venture. Now, Trilby makes some illegal runs. Her ship is falling apart. Doesn't sound like anything we know, right? Like a Imperial Star Destroyer that Booster Terrik conned out of Airen Cracken and renamed the Errant Venture?
Then there's this, the second paragraph of the book: "She bolted for her freighter's rampway. Overhead, a nest of sleeping bloodbats burst out of the rocky crevices like small, leathery missiles. The panicked bats spiraled in front of her. Screeching, they fled through the wide mouth of the cavern into the lavender twilight" (1).
That didn't remind me of a mynock at ALL. (I wish I could find the video from The Empire Strikes Back, but I gather that Lucasfilm allows no Star Wars material to survive on YouTube.) Then there's an overly talkative droid (spelled with an apostrophe before the word - 'droid- doubtless to also keep from ensuing the Wrath of Lucas who copyrighted the term "droid").
About seventy pages in, I declared to my husband that I wasn't sure that I could go on. There was too much "freighter lingo" that Sinclair was trying far too hard to get across. First, while a certain amount of lingo would be acceptable, we aren't short order cooks. Second, when I hear the word "trike," I don't think of a span of three days, and when I hear the word "deuce," I most certainly don't think of a two-day span. Surely, the Romance Writers of America had to be joking by naming this book as a finalist for the Best First Book prize, or 2006 had been particularly bereft of good first romance novels.
My husband convinced me to keep reading, at least just to enjoy how bad it was. So I kept on.
And realized that the book was actually pretty damn good.
Once you get past the lingo and the first Star Wars-like moments (not that there aren't other moments, but we'll get to those), what you have is a distinctively original (at least, I thought so, though there could be something else she's riffing on that I'm not familiar with) universe with a complicated power struggle. The plot is incredibly dense, so I won't outline it here, but I was impressed with the detail (including a new language, which does, at times, also become distracting, like the freighter lingo). And the romance was incredibly understated, which was somewhat confusing to me, given how this was marketed (as a paranormal/sci-fi romance). It was far more sci-fi than romance.
More than this, it was populated with very memorable secondary characters. The military officers that work for our hero, Rhis Vanur, are amazingly intricate in their own motivations and personalities, and I really wanted to know more about them (sometimes more than our heroine, though not our hero). I really felt drawn into this very detailed universe that Sinclair had created.
There were a few places where I was pulled out. One was another Star Wars reference: DZ-9 (Dezi), Trilby's droid, was blasted into pieces and put back together by Vanur. Dezi is C-3PO without a doubt:
"They made the first landing of stairs before Mitkanos could insert a comment. 'You built this 'droid, Tivahr?'
Rhis shook his head, grinning in spite of his pain. 'He's Trilby's. I was just putting him back together for her after he had a slight accident.'
Mitkanos grunted. 'Did you have to hook up his mouth?'" (418).
On the VERY NEXT PAGE, a 'Sko, an alien, who apparently doesn't speak Standard very well addresses Trilby, and we understand why her last name is Elliot. It's so Sinclair can make this joke:
"'El. Li. Ot'" (419).
Yes. That's right. It's an E.T. joke. It's an E.T. joke that was bad enough that it not only threw me out of the novel, but I got up from where I was sitting, came into the office, and pointed it out to my husband. Who immediately understood why I had gotten up.
Now. To be fair, I liked the book a lot. And it's clear that this was Sinclair's first novel, so I'm willing to be more forgiving that I might otherwise have been. And I decided that I definitely wanted to read more of her books, if for no other reason than to see what would happen in the universe she'd created. The events of the novel had to have repercussions, and I could see lots more happening.
So off I went to Sinclair's website. First of all, my comments regarding Jayne Ann Krentz's website stand? Sinclair's website could use an upgrade, as it was hard to navigate and needs some real design help. But imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Finders Keepers is the only novel Sinclair as written (at least as far as I understand) in this particular universe. She does have one series (known as Dock Five), but that's it. Everything else is a one-shot. And I do find that disappointing, because someone as gifted in world-creation as Sinclair is really needs to fully explore the universe they've created, and this one was particularly compelling.
I do intend to start Sinclair's Dock Five series when I have more time and money--since the Kindle version is the same price as the paperback (which infuriates me since there is no additional outlay for the publisher once the book is put into ebook format)--I will go get a hard copy. That way, when I get tired of them, I can make at least some small money from Half Price selling it back.
In the meantime, however, this hard copy is going to do something else hard copies are good for--and go visit our favorite Snarky Writer, as I'd like to see what she has to say about it.
Linnea Sinclair's Finders Keepers: B
In other news, I would like to blame Snarky Writer for some of my confusion. Her recent posts on the internet traffic her blog gets caused me to look at mine for the first time. And I do not know where some of these links came from, and I cannot find links on those sites to my blog to discover! Arg!
I also have a post about writing that I'd like to put up, and of course, the upcoming reviews of In Too Deep and Quicksilver. But out of respect for everyone's news feeds, I'll leave it for another day.