Friday, May 18, 2007

This is Not a Review: Karma Girl

Don't expect fairness and objectivity 'cause I haven't got either. Descriptions are half-assed, my taste is mercurial, and ratings are assigned entirely by whim.

Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

First things first, I saw the first chapter of this book on a critique group site quite a while ago. I liked it then, I like it now. It's good to see folks make good.

Synopsis: In a World Where...every town has its own superheroes and ubervillains, plucky investigative reporter Carmen Cole climbs the ladder of journalistic success from Beginnings, Tennesse to Bigtime, New York by exposing the secret identities of every superhero and ubervillain she can find. Then her activities cause one of the heroes she's exposed to commit suicide and she gets demoted to society reporter.

An ubervillain orders Carmen to discover the identity of the leader of the local superhero group (who hates her on account of the suicide she caused), or face a fate worse than death. Guess who the hero of this story is. Opposites attract. Doomed love ensues. Karma Girl saves the day.

Over all, I liked this book. The Incredibles plays the comic book parody better than Estep does - but I can't blame anyone for falling short of Brad Bird. (Yes, that sound you just heard was me sighing like a schoolgirl whilst thinking of the writing/directing prowess of Brad Bird.) I liked the world Estep set up, and I am impressed that she managed to think up so many alliterative names for the characters (+ Clark Kent approved: Superman Comics #1). Also, I adore the town names.

Carmen's first-person narration draws the story along at a pretty good clip (+Flash Comics #1 a fast, fun read) . The romance is sweet but the love scenes are also written in the first-person, which is a very tricky thing to do (-not quite Superman, but close: Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pal #111) . I am also willing to admit that first-person love scenes kind of creep me out.

While, as stated above, I generally liked this book, I have to mention that Estep, as a writer, totally hit one of my pet peeves. Specifically, she uses race as description (-What happens when racial stereotypes form a team of superheroes? New Guardians #1).

Here is Estep's description of one of the side-kick characters, Henry Harris,

"The black man smiled at me and went back to his computer." p.25
Estep describes his clothes, his age, his glasses, but she can't just throw in a line about what the fellow actually looks like? Is his face round or long? Does he have dark skin, light skin, freckles? What color is his hair? What color are his eyes?

  • "I stopped at the black man's desk..." p. 52
  • "The black man tugged at his bow tie...." p.135
One (dubious) point in Estep's favor, The Black Man does not use slang.

Estep occasionally describes another sidekick character as "the Asian girl", though, to be fair, she does give that character a more thorough description by using words like "skinny" , "young", "pretty", "heart-shaped face" and "almond-shaped eyes". See, that's not so hard to do, is it?
  • "The Asian girl's face grew guarded." p.56
  • "The Asian girl reluctantly took it..." p. 57
She never once refers to any of the other characters as "the white man" or "the European woman". Oh, and in case you couldn't guess, as the only two minority characters, the Black Man and the Asian Girl, hook up thanks to the heroine.

In conclusion: The book was a fun fast read except that Jennifer Estep landed on one of my major pet peeves. I do realize that this pet peeve probably won't hinder other readers' enjoyment of the book as it did for me. I would probably read another of Estep's books, but I'd get it from the library. Ms. Estep's not getting another dime from me until she learns that race is NOT a description.

Rating: If Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep were one of the actors who has played Batman in the Batman movies, with Michael Keaton being the best and George Clooney (sorry George) as the worst. Karma Girl would be:

Christian Bale

Hot and fun, but ultimately hampered by something that annoys me (a.k.a. Katie Holmes).

Oh, who am I kidding. I just wanted to link to a picture of Christian Bale.