Tuesday, August 3, 2021

[Review] - The Shadow by James Patterson and Brian Sitts

"Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows!" 

My knowledge of The Shadow franchise is limited. I recall watching the campy 1994 feature film adaptation starring Alec Baldwin, which I didn't like at all. And that's it. Yeah, I said my knowledge about The Shadow is limited, right? Now, I'm not completely clueless. I am well aware The Shadow began as a series of pulp magazines in the 1930s written by Walter B. Gibson under the pen name Maxwell Grant. Before the vigilante character appeared in literary form, he was the narrator of the radio program Detective Story Hour. Later, the character appeared in comic books, comic strips, movies, serials, and video games.

The Shadow is a brand-new take on the classic vigilante tale. The story opens in 1937 New York City, where Lamont Cranston (aka The Shadow) was having dinner with his long-time girlfriend, Margo Lango. His greatest nemesis, Shiwan Khan, poisoned their salads. After realizing what has occurred, Lamont rushes Margot out of the restaurant to save her. Now, this is where things get weird. The story jumps to the year 2087, where the focus shifts to Maddy Gomes, a teenager living in a dystopian New York City that's ruled by the World President. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a lawyer stating she has inherited something - or more like someone - Lamont Cranston.

Recently, Grand Central Publishing released The Shadow by James Patterson. I know what you're thinking, "James Patterson?" Yes, I know Mr. Patterson doesn't usually write his novels. He comes up with the story, writes an outline, and hands it off to a co-author, which happens to be Brian Sitts, for this outing.

It seems they had advanced science in 1937 because Lamont Cranston had himself cryogenically frozen. Maddy inherits his frozen body and has a doctor to awaken him. Upon awakening, Lamont learns that Shiwan Khan is alive in this futuristic world, and he will do anything in his power to stop him.

Final Thoughts

On paper, The Shadow's plot doesn't sound half bad. Yes, it borrows elements from other books and movies with a cryogenic twist, but I liked the idea until I started reading the book and realized it's in 2087. A futuristic world with no descriptions, and everyone talks and acts like it's 2021. Seriously, why didn't the authors set the story in the present day? The younger generation has never even heard of The Shadow. Why would they want to read about a 1930's character who awakens in 2087? Having Lamont Cranston awaken in 2021 would appeal more to modern readers.

Was The Shadow written for adults or young adults? Grand Central Publishing marketed the paperback for adult readers, but the story's protagonist is a teenager. Lamont Cranston (aka The Shadow) takes a backseat and more or less becomes the teenager's sidekick. The authors wrote the story in a Young Adult-style. I'm not saying this is a bad thing because there are many great YA novels. However, the writing style doesn't work for The Shadow. The descriptions are barebones, the characters are one-dimensional, and the dialogue is cringy. Even at YA standards, it's poorly written.

Overall, The Shadow is one of the worst books I have ever read. It feels like the authors did little to no research on the original pulp stories. They probably read a brief synopsis on Wikipedia and called it a day. If you're going to reboot a pulp character, please do your research. And pay respect to the source materials. Let's hope The Shadow is a one-and-done thing for Mr. Patterson.

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