Jan. 26th, 2013

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The Cross of Sins (Fathom's Five #1), Geoffrey Knight

Disclosure: Storm Moon Press provided a free review copy of this book to me.

I saw this book mentioned on a blog interview with the author, Geoffrey Knight. In the interview, he was talking about his childhood love for action heroes like the Six Million Dollar Man, and how he had always wished that the hot, manly action heroes could be getting it on with each other instead of the female love interests, and how he set out to write that. The Cross of Sins is his first book, and he said that people had described it as "Gay Raiders of the Lost Da Vinci Code".

Well, I said to myself. I can get behind that concept. In fact, it sounds like a lot of fun. So, as Storm Moon Press has a policy of providing free review copies of any of their books to their authors, I asked for one.

I wanted to like it. I really, really did. But this book has a lot of problems.

The first problem is one of writing style. Now, I freely admit that I am a fan of long, flowing sentences, and a habitual abuser of semicolons. One of my beta's key duties is reminding me to take them out. And I admit that short sentences are better suited to action scenes. But this goes beyond short sentences. Whenever there's a scene that's meant to be especially fast-paced, it's done in sentence fragments. Three or four strung together on separate lines, not only in fight scenes and chase scenes, but in sex scenes, too. That, for me, takes it from "fast-paced" into "jarring", and I wish Knight hadn't done it.

Second, there are clumsy bits of as-you-know-Bob exposition, like ""Professor, come quickly! It's Mr. Musa on the phone, curator of the museum in Ankara!" The professor already knows that Mr. Musa's the curator, why is the housekeeper telling him this? There's also over-repeated description, like the part where the reader is told twice in one paragraph and another time very shortly thereafter just how well-dressed the party guests are.

Then, of course, there's the basic premise, which is that the titular Cross of Sins is a Renaissance sculpture of the Crucifixion in which Christ is shown entirely nude, and that this in itself makes the artwork so controversial and so sinful that the Church, or a secret group within it, has been trying to suppress it or get hold of it for centuries. Okay, fine, every action-adventure needs a MacGuffin, but ONE GOOGLE SEARCH makes it clear that there have been numerous nude Crucifixions produced over the years, including in the Renaissance, but that while they have often been the subject of controversy and cover-ups, the mere fact that this statue was nude wouldn't be enough to make it a Super-Secret Artifact worth chasing after like the Ark of the Covenant, or the Holy Grail, or El Corazon. Please, make it a little easier to suspend my disbelief?

Speaking of suspending my disbelief -- there's the action sequences. Both kinds of action. Now, the hot man-on-man action was pretty good, for the most part. I did wonder how the underwater blowjob could have lasted for more than about 30 seconds, because I used to practice holding my breath in the swimming pool when I was a kid, and I didn't have my mouth open, either, and there was one bit about "long, hard Latino cock" that I found really off-putting, but other than that, not much to complain about.

But the action-adventure action? Oh, dear Lord. I will say this: in a movie, it would have been GREAT. I would have been laughing and whooping and clapping, even while I was poking whoever had come with me and saying "heh, why are the villains always such lousy shots?" -- but in a book, I have too much time to think about how jumping off a ledge into the open top of a double-decker bus would result in broken ankles at the very least, and getting that close to the lava in a volcano would result in seriously disabling burns, and wait a minute, if this guy broke his knuckles three paragraphs ago, how's he still punching with both hands? The stolen camel chase was pretty hilarious, though.

So, my opinion: potentially awesome movie, sadly disappointing book. As it's a first novel, I'd be willing to check out later ones in the series, to see if some of the beginner's clumsiness improves... but I really wish I could see the movie instead.

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