26 November 2013

Review: Old Friends by Jonathan Clements, Marc Platt & Pete Kempshall

Hardcover, 274 pages
Published 2006

Acquired April 2013
Read November 2013
Bernice Summerfield IX: Old Friends
by Jonathan Clements, Marc Platt & Pete Kempshall

This is third "novella trilogy" in the Bernice Summerfield, and the most successful one. It takes a slightly different format to the earlier ones-- instead of being three largely parallel tales, we get the first part of a larger story in Jonathan Clements's "Cheating the Reaper," an extended flashback in Marc Platt's "The Ship of Painted Shadows," and then the end of the larger story in Pete Kempshall's "The Soul's Prism."

Let's talk about the flashback story first: Platt's tale oozes atmosphere, and I liked his depiction of "young" Benny (she's 23, I think), who is plausibly the same character, but less experienced without being written as stupid. He write great characters all around, as well as a great setting, but I never fully understood why anything was happening, especially the history of the villain. Parts of it reminded me of Platt's own Paper Cuts.

The main story sees Bernice and Jason attending the funeral of a character Benny first met in "The Ship of Painted Shadows." Clements doesn't quite get the dialogue voices of the principal characters, I don't think, but he gets their interiority very well-- his Jason especially balances the man's desire to do well with his baser instincts in a way that doesn't make him seem a moron. There's not a ton of plot, but this story really gets us into Benny's emotional space-- the woman who left everyone behind, and for a long time. The last line, by the way, is utterly perfect.

"The Soul's Prism" continues this story, but adding some physical danger to what had been a mood piece. It has to do a lot in a brief space, and I don't think it playing coy helps it along-- someone from Benny's past turns up, but it isn't made clear what this person actually did to Benny until late in the game. If I'd read all of the New Adventures, I think I'd know, but I haven't. There are also some contrivances about a character being unable to find Benny that I don't really buy. But on the whole, this is an enjoyable tale, and it succeeds at the doubly tough job of finishing Clements's story while resonating with Platt's admirably.

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