June 16th, 2009

Godzilla Breath

Goodbye, Primeval. You Were Cool.

In terrible TV Nerd news, ITV has pulled the plug on Primeval, confirming that it won't be back for a fourth year.

A shame. This series about scientists vs. time-traveling dinosaurs (I know!) really grew on me over the course of its three seasons, the third of which is currently airing on BBC America on Saturday nights. There's talk of a feature film and a U.S. TV series, but I suspect both will wind up being remakes and not continuations of existing plotlines with the same cast. I really liked where things were heading with more revelations about the nature of the time anomalies, and I really, really liked the cast, so color me extra bummed.

Season three so far has been particularly bonkers, seemingly killing off the series' main character and introducing some new, interesting ones, like Dr. Sarah Page, who can't quite believe she's tracking dinosaurs through modern England, and Danny Quinn, an ex-cop who lost his brother to, yes, a dinosaur. With Jenny Lewis resigning from the team, it may be one cast shake-up too many for me, but at least the series is trying to keep itself fresh.

Or was trying to, anyway. We'll see where Primeval goes from here, but until then, I'll just have to make do with the remaining season three episodes and my memories of the fun I had playing with my plastic dinosaurs when I was little.

Straubathon: The Throat

Welcome, readers, to the glorious return of the Straubathon! For those not in the know, back in 2005, upon realizing that I had never read anything by the author so many of my friends called the best modern-day writer of horror and suspense, I vowed to read all of p_straub55's novels back to back and in chronological order. While the chronological approach remained, the back to back part didn't, as various other commitments forced me to break the process up instead of devouring them all at once. Which actually turned out to be for the best. Straub's novels are best savored like a fine wine, not gulped down like cans of Diet Coke on a hot day. (You can read previous installments of the Straubathon here.)

Which brings us to 1993's The Throat, the final volume in the extremely loose trilogy that also encompasses 1988's Koko and 1990's Mystery. Ostensibly, one can say that The Throat is about the hero of Koko (Tim Underhill, only really the semi-hero in that novel) and the hero of Mystery (Tom Pasmore, at once Underhill's literary alter ego and a real person) teaming up to solve the Blue Rose murders that shook up the town of Millhaven some forty years earlier, murders that ran through the background of both Koko and Mystery. It is, of course, about so much more than that, as Straub's work tends to be. It's also about identity and memory (as was Koko), and how the past informs the present (as was Mystery). And, in a strange way, it's also about letting go of the past, at least for Underhill himself once he discovers he has a shocking childhood connection to the killer. (The final three pages of the novel are a stunning description of acceptance and compassion.)

It's a hefty book, too. My Signet paperback version is 700 pages long, with a rather miniscule typeface, and yet I found myself speeding through the pages without my editor brain finding a single scene I would have cut in order to shorten it. Straub's work is so densely and rewardingly layered that every detail, every line of dialogue, transforms into an important aspect of the story -- a clue to the mystery's solution, and yet also a clue to Underhill's understanding of a world where someone like the Blue Rose killer can exist. There are even shades of Conrad's Heart of Darkness to be found in the story of Franklin Bachelor's exploits in Vietnam.

I'm told that upon its publication The Throat was not the commercial success they hoped it would be. I don't know if that's true or not, but I will say that if it is, it's a damn shame. The Throat is a masterpiece, one of the finest mystery/suspense novels since Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, and in my opinion deserves the same size audience. The moment I closed the book I called mssrcrankypants to discuss it and demand he send me the chapter he wrote on The Throat for his grad school thesis. I guess it speaks highly of the novel that after 700 dense pages, I want to read even more about it in the form of an academic paper!

Straub's novels have yet to disappoint me. But even more than being a master craftsman who tells compelling stories, his legacy, at least for me and for others in my trade, is that each novel of his I read makes me want to be that much better of a writer.

Up next in the Straubathon will be 1996's The Hellfire Club. (As a point of fun trivia, the first time I met Peter Straub was at the Bram Stoker Awards in New York City in the mid-1990s, when he read a bit from Hellfire at the Stoker reading series we then called Villa Diodati. It feels like I'm catching up to myself!)