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Something's Lacking . . .
on March 29, 2013
I saw the film before the book, guilty as charged. The film was majestically dark, elegantly offbeat, with beautiful cinematography and it had the best soundtrack of 2012. The only thing the movie has in common with the book are the name of the characters, a line of dialogue in the beginning of the book, an action sequence in the motel where the chick from AMC's Madmen dies, and the ending of the book; that's not a spoiler by any means, that's just something that fans of the movie should know right upfront. Driver (the character's "name") in this novel isn't the quiet, cool guy that Gosling played in the film; this Driver is talkative, witty, smart, sometimes even obnoxious. I actually prefer the Gosling counterpart, but that's me.
Okay, so now let me talk about the book without comparing it to the movie. I think James Sallis was going for a Godfather-esque, noir story, but the plot was just so simplistic that the author had to scramble the scenes around like eggs; it wasn't necessarily hard to know if a scene took place in the past or present or future, but at the same, it wasn't necessary either. In fact, the first chapter in this novel was repeated in another chapter later on--word for word (or at least, almost word for word--because the narrative was repeating what had already happened in the beginning).
I think Sallis tries to write like McCarthy, but he ends up sounding amateurish. He tends to miss words in sentences; for instance: Instead of, "The dog ran into the street to fetch the ball," Sallis would write, "Dog ran into street to fetch ball"--some of that works, but Sallis overuses this writing method to shorten sentences . . . it was almost as if he was trying to get below a certain word count, so he deleted a lot of words.
Another problem I had is that most of the characters talked the same way. The character's speech patterns actually missed words too (convenient, huh?).
Ultimately Drive was a disappointment. I prefer Cormac McCarthy's prose, but I suppose he's impossible to compete with. I see potential in James Sallis's writing . . . but he needs to flesh out his paragraphs, flesh out his characters, flash out his plots, and write a story in chronological order instead of scrambled scenes.