Monday, October 17, 2016
Artemis by Chris Snider
I got this book looking for something quick and scary that I could read to add to my month of scary book reviews. I found it on a book promotion page on Facebook, found an interesting premise, and got all excited about it. And then I read it. It's...um...interesting. First off, it's labeled as a horror book, but it's not. It's a superhero comic without actually being a comic. Let's just get right to it, shall we?
Joseph Art is a scientist who is working on trying to create a devise that allows humans to talk to animals, an invention that will set him up for life and help him free his sister from her abusive husband. But the evil business tycoon who funds him named Lex Luthor...I mean...Vincent Lankston decides to take the invention for himself and kill Joseph. But science happens and the murder attempt turns Joseph into a terrifying creature with superhuman senses, strength, speed, and the ability to communicate with animals. He uses his newfound powers to avenge animals from those who abused them, taking on the name Artemis. He's pursued by a Commissioner Gordon....I mean....Chief John Colton who wants to bring him to justice, as well as an evil clown serial killer named the Joker...I mean...Axe the Clown who wants him to stop stealing his thunder.
So, yeah, if you haven't already guessed, I have a few issues with this book. The first of which being that this...is...NOT...horror. Yes, we have two people who brutally kill a lot of other people in this book and the deaths are bloody and gory but...that doesn't count as horror to me! Horror is just as much about what you don't see as opposed to what's shown you. There's almost no suspense, no chills, no...no nothing! It's just a bloodbath and that's it. Heck, we don't even SEE the bloodbath happening most of the time. We just show up randomly at the crime scene when the worst of it is over and stare in horror at the aftermath. It does come close to showing us horror, but I'll get to that in a minute. As I said before, this is a superhero story. Well, an anti hero story, would be more accurate.
Okay, first off, let me get something really clear. I like animals! Animals should be treated with kindness and respect. Animal abuse is wrong and should not be done. With that said, Artemis's idea of punishing animals abusers is just over the top! Granted, he does to them what they did to the animals, but this includes burying a man up to his neck and running over his head with a lawnmower! Look, I know that's what the man did to a cat, a human doing that to a human is just ten times worse. The author tries to soften the blow by giving background on each and every person he kills and talks about how they're just nasty, miserable people who deserve to die so you don't feel bad when Artemis murders them, but it kinda backfires. You see that these people have rough lives, anger issues, and what not and you can think of a thousand different ways they could be helped and kept from doing these things again, only to witness their horror as this creature kills them horribly. No. It...it's just...no. It doesn't work.
This is just one of many reasons why Artemis isn't a good superhero. Heck, he's not even a good anti hero. Anti heroes, while morally gray and have a tendency to be the most brutal characters in comics, have to have something about them that you like and want to root for. Punisher wants to make the streets safe so nobody loses their family like he did. Deadpool is funny as heck and, while selfish at times, ultimately does make the right decisions and doesn't hurt people unnecessarily. Artemis....only starts helping humans because his sister tells him to. They try to make it more of a "try to find the man within the beast" kind of deal, where it's the animal side of him that kills humans horribly and the human side wants to help people. This, however, doesn't work either. Unlike characters that try to do this, like the Hulk or Dr Jeykll, Artemis is fully in control of himself all the time. He doesn't do anything unconsciously, there's no other personality telling him what to do, it's him the whole time. He's always responsible for his actions and when he actively makes a decision to hurt someone way beyond that which they deserve, you don't sympathize with him. I don't want to root for Artemis. I just want someone to stop him before he kills my neighbor for forgetting to feed his cat!
Oh, and get used to knowing the full names and lives of absolutely every character in this book. I mean all of them. They ALL have at least a page devoted to who they are, where they come from, what their marital status is, how they take their tea, etc. Even the victims all have stories and lives and dreams and then...die. It doesn't make you feel like you know them any better or build the world or...or do anything really. It's just an information dump and then...death. The only times this works is when we're talking about the Chief, Joseph's friend Wayne, and the other killer in the book, Axe the Clown. Axe's backstory, compared to most other villain origins that I've known is...pretty bland. Tragic, yes, but not original. Oh, and he's also a total match for our superhuman-animal-human-hybrid-protagonist because....he lifts weights. Diabolical fiend!
Ugh, if I don't stop now, this review is going to be longer than the book itself. This book just...fails. I feel bad because it really does try. I can tell a lot of effort went into this and the author really did try to make this work. But it doesn't. The characters aren't likable, the idea was weak, it's not scary, it's not a good hero story, it's not original and, with an honestly heavy heart, I have to say that this book really does belong in the Waste Bin of Despair.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Do you disagree with my rating? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next time: Who ya gonna call....when the Ghostbusters aren't available?