Monday, October 11, 2010

book review: The Shimmer by David Morrell

David Morrell is widely known as the father of the modern action thriller.  He has penned such best sellers as: Rambo, First Blood, Brotherhood of the Rose, and Creepers.  His latest work, however, doesn't seem to live up to some of his previous works.  With The Shimmer, Morrell seems to have almost veered over into SyFy territory.
Morrell can't be faulted for his commitment to this book.  He puts his own spin on what is known as the Marfa Lights, an odd occurance outside of the town of Marfa in Southwest Texas.  After reading about the even in a newspaper article back in 2004, Morrell learned that James Dean had been fascinated by these so called lights back when he as filming a movie called Giant nearby.  Morrell expertly incorporates that bit of info into the story.  What results is an superb mix of fact and fiction.
The story starts out with a lightning pace.  There is plenty of action right from the opening sequence.  Dan Page, a cop, witnesses, from his plane in the air, the fatal end to a police car chase.  Upon arriving home, he finds his wife Tori missing.  All she left behind was a cryptic letter.  This is the beginning of Page's quest to find his wife, which leads him to the Texas town of Rostov and, ultimately, to the lights.
Unfortunately, what starts out with such promise of action and adventure, fizzles out into just a hodgepodge of excessive violence.  Not that I am opposed to violence in books, just the opposite in fact.  However the killing and mayhem in The Shimmer do little to add to the overall story, and don't help move the plot along at all.  Lacking are the thought provoking explanations of the origin of the lights, or heartfelt histories of each character.  I often found myself not connecting with many of the main characters in the book, and more often than not, not really caring one way or the other if they made it through to the end.  Some of the questions with the protagonists and for that matter the overall antagonists, are answered in the end.  But there is still confusion, and the answers seemed to be a little predictable by that point in the book.
While maybe not the most shining example of the author's considerable talents for fiction, The Shimmer is overall an enjoyable and worthwhile read, especially to fans of David Morrell.

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