I consider Mercedes Lackey kind of a guilty pleasure.  Her books aren’t great but they aren’t terrible, her characters are generally pretty upstanding (maybe a little too upstanding?  In an annoying way?) and her books tend to be really quick reads for me.  I don’t think they’re bad, but they’re a little one dimensional.

I know a few people who have referred to it as YA even though I’ve never seen it as marketed as YA because people associate depth and quality with adult books and lack thereof with YA.  Which is silly, some of my favorite authors are YA authors.  J.K. Rowling may have started off a novice, but Harry Potter ends with characters who have depth that you don’t always like, sometimes they make poor decisions and the stories have three dimensions.  Things don’t go well, and it doesn’t seem like things happen just for the sake of plot convenience.  The same is true for Libba Bray books- if you want kinda creepy books where the main characters are extremely well developed, you want to read A Great and Terrible Beauty and the sequels.

The point is that a character is not a full character unless they aren’t likeable all the time.  Harry Potter isn’t, Gemma Doyle isn’t.  Most of Lackey’s characters are impeccable, beyond reproach, and their ‘flaws’ are outwardly perceived flaws.  So it’s a little one dimensional.  But I still read a lot of Lackey because it does entertain me and I like her writing, it’s easy to read and I think of it like brain popcorn.

I feel moooostly the same way about Dan Brown, with a few big asterisks.  I think Lackey is a stronger writer (and her stories are certainly better) but it’s entertaining and easy to read, again.  Also, it was sitting on the shelf.  So I read Deception Point.

Let’s start here: I missed Robert Langdon.  I realize he’s kind of a self-insert, but he’s an amusing self-insert.  Entertaining, and he’s presented as a nice authority on all things… symbolic.  Okay it kind of falls apart but he has a good excuse for being knowledgeable about half of everything.

I don’t think I can discuss this book without revealing the whole plot, so if you’re interested in reading the book afresh go ahead and read it and come back.  I’ll wait.  (Spoilers ahead.)

So, Rachel Sexton is what is called a “gister” in the book, and I’m not even sure that’s a real job name.  What she actually does is analyze data and summarize it.  She’s a data analyst, and I wish she’d been called that and not given some cutesy name job description, because Data Analyst for the NSA sounds a lot better than ‘Gister’ for the NSA, and you don’t have to explain one of those.

If that’s an actual industry term: I don’t care, that doesn’t make it any less dumb.

Here’s what happened in the first, oh, 200 pages.  Rachel had a lunch with her father, whom she dislikes.  Rachel goes to work and is ordered to meet the president.  She meets the president and goes to an undisclosed location.  She meets a bunch of scientists, decides that their findings appear to be valid, and reports this to the White House staff.  Before the findings go live, there is a debate between Senator Sexton, Rachel’s father, and the POTUS’s representative (the senator is making a bid for the White House).  This all sounds WAY more exciting than it actually is.

Much of this time is spent traveling.  We find out that Rachel is afraid of water- just open water.  She probably can’t take baths, that’s how afraid she is.  Oh, and her mother tragically died. Look I read the whole book and that’s still about all I know about her: her father is a character so one dimensionally evil he makes Snidely Whiplash look complex; she’s afraid of water because she nearly died in a frozen pond when she was 7; and her mother died because- hang on I forgot.  *checks book*

Okay, so get this.  Here’s how her mother died: Rachel couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving, she was stuck at an airport.  Her father also didn’t make it home.  He made some excuses but he was probably with another woman.  So her mother was all alone on Thanksgiving and decided to take the food to her sister’s house so it wouldn’t go waste, and died in a car crash.  Cue the Linking Park: CRAAAAAWLING IN MY SKIIIIIIIN

Anyway, a lot of build up is centered around this whole ‘what did NASA find in the Arctic Circle?’ question, and the straight answer is that they found a meteorite that may have complex alien life on it.  Which was a little disappointing when I read it.  The build up was huge, and people were getting killed over… trilobites.

So why was Rachel Sexton, Data Analyst, dragged to the middle of the Arctic Circle in a very Secret Squirrel type manner?  Because the President of the United States wanted her to ‘gist’ the information as WELL as vet it to his household staff, because if the daughter of his opponent endorsed it then his staff would believe it and they’d get a boost in morale.

This is a weak-ass premise for getting her where he wanted her.  He couldn’t actually have her do this on TV because the President is a Good Guy, but because we have to believe that the President might be Behind All This, the President has to do something slightly sleazy to earn some of that distrust.  Like send his opponent’s daughter into the wilds of the Arctic without telling her what he wants out of her first. It’s actually pretty out of what becomes his character, later.

The first half of the book also does an annoying thing.  The big secret about life in the meteorite isn’t revealed until later.  When Rachel asks the POTUS straight up what she’s being sent to see he says something like “Oh I can’t tell you, you have to see it for yourself.”

No, no she doesn’t, and this is a false way of trying to insert dramatic tension.

So, the real kicker is that the meteorite is not a real meteorite, it was planted there by the NSA (and Rachel’s boss, because the Mentor Always Did It in Dan Brown novels)  and then the people who knew about it and discovered it originally were killed (hence an unneeded scene of military men pushing sled dogs and a guy out of a helicopter) and then NASA took credit for a discovery they didn’t know was faked.  The military group thing answered to the guy in charge of NASA.  When all this went down, Rachel (for reasons I cannot begin to fathom) faxed all the information to her father.  Senator Sexton twirled his mustache and planned on releasing everything on the news, when his Intern subplot blew up in his face.

To make a long story short (too late!) the POTUS remains the POTUS, the senator revealed that he was having an affair with his intern and got his come-uppance, Rachel got her non-chemistry on with the Romantic Cardboard Cutout, and we all lived happily fuckin’ after.

This book lacks all of the things Dan Brown does well and is sort of a catalog of all his bad writing habits.  While the Langdon books seem contrived, they at least tend to have the fall back of their being a big overall conspiracy.  In this book there were three or four different little conspiracies running simultaneously, and one of them only worked if Rachel was somehow involved.

And while of course that’s the way it works, she’s not actually central to the plot in any way.  Langdon is generally central to the plot.  In the DaVinci Code, for example, he is summoned because his name was written on the floor.  He was dragged into the plot somewhat unwillingly but there is at least a valid reason for him being there in the first place- he’s accused of murder.  Sophie is a bit more of a stretch- but she wasn’t actually sent there.  She happened across the information and showed up.  If Langdon had been put in jail because Sophie didn’t catch it, I have the feeling she’d have busted him out of jail and the plot would have continued- the plot of that book had some inevitability to it.

Also, for all that seemed to be going on in this book, it sort of… wasn’t.  When they were chased onto a iceberg that broke into the ocean and were rescued in a ridiculous manner my first thought was ‘oh thank god’ because something I found interesting was actually happening.

So yeah, annoying and a little boring pretty much sums it up.  Oh well, on to the next book!