October 05, 2004

Bearly Readable

Greg Bear Tries His Hand at Horror. He's Done Better.

I saw a new Greg Bear title on the "new books" shelf in the library, so I picked it up. I've read and reviewed Bear's stuff before, and he has some really great stuff, including a few of my all-time favorites, so he's someone I watch for just to see if he can hit that high again. In this latest book, "Dead Lines", Bear kind of goes for the ghost story/technohorror genre, and it doesn't work.

The protagonist is a smarmy, shallow Hollywood lowlife who bops around from one place to the other trying to do odd jobs for old friends and/or his wealthy benefactor. He gets involved distributing a new kind of cell phone called a "Trans" that apparently taps into some sort of quantum information space, burning away barriers that separate the living world from that of the dead. As he carries the thing around, he starts to see some pretty spooky, gruesome stuff, and there are some genuinely scary images in the book.

But they are pretty thinly spread over a book that, while short enough to read in a day, would've served better as a short story. Ultimately, some loose plot threads come together in the end, but it was hard to ignore all the holes. Some of the most interesting characters were given very little time, too. It's a shame. This one just feels like a tossed-off potboiler. It's not unreadable or anything. I've read worse, but Bear is capable of greatness.

Posted by Observer at October 5, 2004 03:06 PM

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