on December 23, 2008
I will attempt not to give anything away concerning the plot, but spoilers may occur since I'll go for a deep analysis. Read at your own peril.
Disclaimer the second:
I never really liked Amazon's 1 to 5 star system. As Ben "Yahtzee" would say, I don't think that a complex opinion can be effectively translated by a numeral qualification. I gave this book a 3 to represent its place in my book collection (1 is a book I'll throw out the window and generally mope for the money I wasted on it (even if it was given); 2 is a book I'll give away to a friend; 3 is a book that has earned its place on my bookshelf but it shouldn't expect being re-read any time soon; 4 is a book that will get a frequent reread, and will be loved and worn. 5 is saved for those books I love to pieces (in the case of my Good Omens, literally), and even if I don't reread it every month, I will recommend it to everyone I can.
Of course, this has nothing to do with the quality of said book. The awfully crappy "Key to Conflict", which is possibly one of the worst paranormal novels yet, has earned a 4 and position in my book shelf that I will read as frequently as I can, especially when I'm lacking inspiration. It has yet to fail driving me to hysterics after just a paragraph or two. Same thing for Twilight, which I rank a 5. It's absolutely cracktastic, and, like "Key", it goes so past the "awfully bad" it turns into "awesome".
So, after this incredibly long blurb, off to business, shall we?
Cold Streak is a 268-page novel about a woman (Laura), whose family is murdered and she goes on a rampage of revenge. Yep. That's the plot. And you can read it on the back cover. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing because it hints that it's not the revenge that matters, but rather what happens in the process.
I came across this book at the "Breaking Dawn" forum, where it was suggested as a good "post Twilight series" read. To this day, I seriously still don't know what the people who claimed that where smoking. This book has absolutely nothing to do with Twilight, and while I might recommend it to some friends, I would never recommend it as to people who enjoy and want books in the line of Twilight. The only thing that the two books might have in common is a slight brush with the supernatural. There is no "self-induced" fantasy elements on this book, and there is as much pink and sugar romance here as in the national phone directory. "Cold Streak" handles mature themes that can be at times uncomfortable, and other times just boring. Also, there are no vampires. Which is a pity, but that's just me.
So the story begins with Laura getting the news that her children and husband were viciously murdered. Obviously, that upsets her beyond belief, and she achieves some sort of dark epiphany when she begs any random deity that could be accidentally listening to give her strength to get revenge. And, surprise, she gets her wish. She is possessed by something she can't understand and we don't get any explanation what are the powers, where do they come from, who sent them, what actually happened to her. We're as much in the dark as the heroine, and I remember thinking "Awesome! A modern retelling of the myth of the Furies. Someone should have thought of that before."
Of course, the book attempts to prove me wrong when, a few chapters afterwards, most of the revenge is fulfilled as two of the three criminals are dead. And I saw it coming two miles away because that whatever possessed Laura cannot be stopped, cannot be resisted, it's a regular Deus Ex Machina resource, because it doesn't only give her super strength and agility and damage resistance, but it allows her to disable anyone opposing her, not to mention that it seems to have an in-built GPS system that guides her wherever she needs to be.
Before the middle of the book, full revenge is complete, and I remember wondering what the hell would happen to fill the rest of the book. As if to answer that question, the story suddenly changes topic and it was here that I realized that, if I had to choose a single word to define this book, it would be "INDECISIVE".
This book doesn't know what it wants to be.
It starts as a tale of revenge, without warning or explanation, and the ride inside the eyes of the protagonist is awesome, with solid writing to support the narrowness of her thoughts, making us realize and connect deeply with the nothing that fills Laura, no mean feat for a 3rd person writing.
But as soon as her rampage is over, the book seems to want to be something else, and I realize, around the bar scene, that I'm reading a superhero origin story - when the priest joins the equation as confident and caretaker, the light to her darkness, I started getting Batman vibes, which is why I dubbed the priest Alfred. I can't remember his real name since that. This was reinforced by the sudden considerations of the heroine that "I can't control my power" and "What have I become?", and her constant struggle with it to rein in its primal instincts to go forth and wreck havoc.
Suddenly, the author shifts gears, and we're following the poor hapless detective and his love interest companion\secretary. A lot of time is spent with considerations of hidden tenderness for each other and the whole "they're in love with each other but haven't realized that the other is in love too". I could say that this was Mr. Aleman trying to boost the word count, but I don't think that's it. This actually seems as if he was writing two books, realized he didn't have enough material to write either, and decided to paste them together. You could actually (if you're very bored or having a lot of time in hands) separate both books and read them apart, as two totally different novels.
With that begins the tale of Detective Andarus, who I pity not for his divorce, goodness of heart, honour, or golden-retriever-like persistence to solve an ugly case. Nor for his hectic love life, as it seems he hasn't gotten laid in forever - and now he's playing romantic hide-and-seek with his secretary (obviously, everyone but the two of them realizes how much in love they are with each other), and we can all guess that they'll end up together, after some fussing and arguments and "oh noes, we can't be together because we are work partners".
No, what makes me pity poor Andarus is (well, other than his elvish name) the fact that I know that he lost the battle against Laura from the get go. Even if he manages to find out she's behind the revenge killings, even if he manages to catch her, he can't do a thing about it. This is why I know that Andarus's tale is unrelated to Laura. They seem to accidentally cross each other paths, but each other is irrelevant to each other's tale, no matter how hard the author tries to make me believe otherwise.
In the meantime, the past of the two star-crossed lovers is brought forth, the issues of "daddy didn't care" that the secretary has with her father are addressed and then solved - with nary a struggle, leaving me wondering why should I care about it to begin with.
And the book doesn't end without yet another change of pace. Alfred and Laura become confidents and the two have huge philosophical debates about the nature of life and death and revenge and the beast. Another Amazon reviewer expressed discomfort about the Christian connotations of the book, but I really have to ask "What connotations?" If you have a catholic priest talking, what were you expecting? Taoist philosophy? Druidic thought? The author didn't give any certainties that the Christian god - or any other god - is behind the "Pull" (how Laura calls the power that possesses her). One of the characters gives his opinion, and since this character is a priest, he thinks God is the answer for everything. He'd better, since he's one of the Big Boss's PR people.
I would like to present my anger at the author for jumping in the "Cool Priest" bandwagon. For some reason, it's fashionable to write Catholic Priests as kind, enlightened, gentle and open-minded. Living in a country where catholics are 92% of the religious population, I won't say that a few are not nice, but most of them are narrow minded and dead stuck in their beliefs, and won't let anyone that is not catholic (like, say, a protestant) to be the godfather of a child baptized by their church. This was my main issue with Alfred - he was just too cool to be true. Of course, he could always be faking it. Laura could easily rip his head off, so maybe he thought that betraying his true views on homosexuality or abortion was a risk he didn't want to take.
The ending isn't surprising, not because I could see it coming three miles away, but because it couldn't have been handled any other way, so it left me with a very strong taste of "meh". I can't really specify without some serious spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.
In short: this is a book that's a) a modern retelling of the Greek story of the Furies, b) a Superhero Origin tale, c) a lukewarm tale of office love between a detective and his quiet and dedicated secretary and d) an extensive philosophical essay on the nature of revenge and self-forgiveness - and all in the same breath, leaving me wondering exactly what it wants to talk about.
The back cover proudly announces that the author is now working on a prequel for Cold Streak, which rises the very interesting question to what will be about: where the Pull came from\ what is the Pull; what is the story behind Laura before the death of her husband; what are the stories behind Andarus and Wonder Secretary; or the tale of Alfred and why the hell he is such an awesome person. Because, frankly, it can be any of those.
Finally, I can't really say this is a bad book. It's a different one, that's for sure. I don't know which kind of person I'd recommend it to, however. Certainly not people who loved Twilight and wanted more of it.
The beginning of the book, and the revenge taking. That was visceral, gutsy (no pun intended) and outright addicting. I wanted to read more to know what was going to happen.
The whole thing with people finding out that Laura's original name initials spelled "Job". Like the bible one. That one was so crowbared into the book it wasn't even funny. People have been burnt at the stake for less. It left me wondering if Alfred's awesomeness probably came from a liberal use of pot.
The back cover. It is a graphic train wreck of the likes I hadn't seen since the distant days of the "photochopped" artwork of the Immortal RPG. Which is a pity, because the cover model is quite pretty, but it looks as if her ex-boyfriend angrily unleashed random photoshop filters on her, then crudely cut her head off and pasted it on a tilted church background. I know that it was meant to show the "cold" streak, which was represented by the white streak showing in her hair (just like happens to Laura in the book), but it just looks like a bad project for digital painting class.