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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Friday, January 9, 2009

The Cannonball Read: Entry 5 – “The Klone and I” by Danielle Steel

Either I finished this next book really fast, or I was really late on my “Why We Suck” review. At any rate, here’s another ball in the cannon that is the Cannonball Read. As usual, if anyone has suggestions, requests, or dedications, feel free to post them on the Comments Board. Also, for the uninitiated, here's where to go for all the background you need on this epic quest, http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm . Once more, special thanks to Brian Prisco for allowing me, and all the others, to participate in this clusterfuck of literary wonderment. What? You want to sign up? Start here: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/ Who knows? You might just get your review published on Pajiba! (Sweetheart, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I really tried with this one.)

Let me just start by saying I do not have a bias against female authors. (Anita Shrieve's "All He Ever Wanted and Jodi Picoult's "The Pact" are two really good books written by females that avoid the pitfalls and trappings that I describe here. Also, I have a literary, intellectual, and physical crush on J.K. Rowling.) I am a man, a 100% authentic, genetically and anatomically correct, and visually confirmed male specimen who is widely acknowledged as a man. I am also picky about entertainment (as if regular readers couldn’t guess that part). Both of these factors heavily interact with each other when I’m seeking something that’ll kill the hours between now and later. There has been no greater example of just how much of a picky male specimen I am than my reaction to “The Klone and I”. I’m especially picky, because I am a male, and males are kinda picky about the entertainments they select as males. In my heart of hearts, I would have to say that this book was not capable of executing even its own “quadruple flip” technique when it came to entertaining my very male mind.

Sorry folks, I didn’t mean to hurt you with that last paragraph, but that is exactly how Danielle Steel writes her books: constant repetition of details and phrases with minor variations, very gender (admittedly female) based storylines and humor, and at least one mention of the phrase “In her/my/his/it’s heart of hearts”. (Oddly enough, she wrote this book as a “Christmas Present” for her fifth husband, and inspiration for the novel’s male lead, Tom Perkins.) I remember my mother telling me one day when going over her book collection, “She writes the same book over and over again, just like Harold Robbins”. But she and my grandmother still read them and why they did I would never understand, until I decided myself to venture into uncharted literary waters. You see, my girlfriend is also a fan of the oeuvre that Danielle Steel produces, though when I asked her for a random book of hers to read she flat out told me, “You’re not going to like this”.

Which, I’m sad to say, is only 89% true. Strangely enough, this book started off well enough: Stephanie’s husband Roger leaves her after 13 years of marriage by simply saying, “I don’t love you anymore” and running off with Helena, his mistress. Left with their two kids Charlotte and Sam, Stephanie eventually gets over it and starts dating again. Naturally, she gets the really “special” ones to come out of the woodwork and present themselves to her, and we get only a glimpse into the weirdness she experiences. It isn’t until she randomly decides to meet her husband, his new girlfriend, and their kids in France that the story starts to flag…which begins in Chapter 2. You see, as soon as Stephanie arrives in France, she shops for all the hot clothing she never wore while being married, and for a couple paragraphs there’s random mention of her new pair of blue underwear. How, if the waiter saw it, he might gasp. How, if she were hit by a car, the police would notice them while examining her corpse. You kind of get the drift, however do not fear…this isn’t a book about underwear. It’s a book about flips.

See, she meets Peter, a wealthy and smart businessman (aren’t they all) who happens to work in Bionics. They meet-cute, they have sex, they go home to the States, and then as sure as Deux Ex Machina, he has to leave for California. (Stephanie and her family live in New York.) But don’t worry, Peter has a surprise for her. One that’ll make sure she doesn’t miss him. Sure enough, we’re introduced to Paul Klone…Peter’s bionic double. Now, this is a big point I have to make with Ms. Steel’s work…the guy isn’t a “klone”, he’s a cyborg. Human appearance, with bionics underneath, is a freakin’ cyborg. A clone is a fully organic copy of another entity…spelt with a “k” or not, get your facts straight ma’am. But I digress…so Paul shows up, and automatically sets himself apart from Peter. You see, Peter is the serious type. He dresses conservatively, reads the paper, and gets along with the kids. Paul, on the other hand, only shares the getting along with the kids part. Other than that, he dresses like a perpetual fashion victim (For example, his Christmas outfit towards the end of the book consists of a silver jacket with ornament balls adorning it, and pants that are lit by Christmas tree lights.), he drinks like a fish but doesn’t get drunk, and he has some special moves in the bedroom…the Double/Triple/Quadruple flips.

At first, Stephanie is weepy about the whole thing, but after some bionic sex she gets used to the fact that she’s dating The Mask, while waiting for Stanley Ipkiss to come home and restore normalcy. Insert the “conflicted woman” trope of a plotline (when one’s around, she doesn’t miss the other), add some “comedic” moments, along with a subplot dealing with Peter getting used to her kids, and you’ve got 230 pages of what my girlfriend calls, “literary chewing gum”. Which is appropriate, because to the book’s credit, it’s a light and easy read. It doesn’t take a long time to read something like this, and if you’re as morbidly curious as I, it’s not that painful…it’s just not that good either. Everything seems glossed over, with overly melodramatic emotions added in to qualify as “romance”. While reading this book, you can only think about how Lifetime would turn this one into a motion picture, seeing as the “high tech” angle is more Crichton than Steel. In fact, I was told this isn’t her best book, and I would have to say it shows. Ms. Steel, while adept at spinning a cotton candy yarn about love and bionics, doesn’t really have a grasp or an interest in the bionics part. It’s merely there to make the story “high tech”, and to make the Paul character such an irresistibly good lay that he makes this woman fall in love with her.

My guess is that women read these books because Ms. Steel’s books are some sort of guilty pleasure. It’s not quite high brow lit, but it’s not quite the bodice ripping yarns that Harlequin pumps out on a daily basis. It’s very middle of the road, lightweight romance that fills the gaps in-between the latest Candace Bushnell, Emily Giffin, and Sophie Kinsella books that are released on as frequent a schedule as Ms. Steel’s. They do not strive for greatness, they just strive for an audience. I know a lot of the women out there are asking, “Mike, why’d you read this damn book if you knew it was for women”? Well, this whole Cannonball Read thing is about reading, yes? And it wouldn’t be fun if I just stuck to the straight and narrows of my own personal tastes, would it? Of course not. That’s why you’ll see books like this, Pam Anderson’s twin novels, and the Twilight series on the list. It’s an exercise in literature, and it’s supposed to be adventurous. Sometimes stepping outside of the box works, however this isn’t one of those times. In my heart of hearts, I will be giving this one back to my girlfriend, and I can safely say I won’t miss The Klone.

Next Time on The Cannonball Read: A review of "The Last Victim: A True-Life Journey Into the Mind of a Serial Killer" by Jason Moss

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