Friday, October 3, 2014

Grimm: The Killing Time by Tim Waggoner

There’s a new wesen in Portland – a shapeshifter that takes the form of its victims. Deadly and hidden, there’s very little known about these creatures and they usually hide even from wesen society

But this wesen is sick, it’s not as careful or as hidden as usual – and is much more dangerous even to begin with. That dangerous grows to a threat that may destroy the entire wesen community of Portland after an encounter between the ill wesen and Nick.

Not only does a killer have to be stopped, but the side effects of its disease must be curtailed before the Wesen Council intervenes.

Obviously, this is a book set in the same world and with the same characters as Grimm. Books of established TV series or films always have some difficulty because they’re trying to capture in print the characters and world that we already know; can they convey a sense of the characters I already know in a completely different medium especially one that offers new opportunities like the ability to see what the characters are thinking. That’s a tough call.

And I think this book largely did it right. These characters feel a lot like the characters from the show. They were in character, nothing was drastically awry from what I expected and the insight into Nick’s head managed to be both revelatory and developing while not jarring my current sense of the character. That takes some doing – to expand the character beyond what we’ve already seen while still keeping him true to what we’d expect from the TV? That’s excellent, I’m impressed.

But I also want to ask someone whether this is canon or not. Because this book does an excellent job of expanding on what it means to be Grimm and even what it means to be various wesen. It even pins down some of the actual abilities of a Grimm while the show has always been so very cagey in actually explaining what being a Grimm means. Can I take that and run with it? I want to run with it, I really do but it’s such an expansion on what the show has been willing to explain that I feel it’s a little extra-cannonical. In particularly, Nick constantly thinks about his Grimm side pushing him to violence which I don’t think the show really backed up – but since it’s a restrained mental impulse, would we see it on the show? I also liked the way it addressed the way Wesen culture in Portland changed with Nick around – how he was having an effect and changing opinions and while many were still afraid of him, equally many were coming to see him as on their side and even a person to call in times of need.

This is what it did really right in a show-to-book-conversion. It also largely accepted that this book is not a stand alone. There is no point in reading this book if you haven’t watched the show – and, really, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t watched the show is likely to pick it up. So, while it has reminders, it has tried to restrain itself on the unnecessary background exposition and world building because we know all that. This is excellent, stand alone stuffing is unnecessary. But it still spends a lot of time physically describing each character in detail which is just kind of weird, especially when words are used to describe characters that I wouldn’t. I get this mental image of the author sitting down with pictures of the Grimm actors and describing them in slightly creepy, gushing terms then shoving those descriptions into the book whether they fit the context or not.

The book also succumbs to that terrible habit of episode call outs. Past episodes, past events on the TV show are constantly referenced in this book even when it really isn’t necessary. It’s a fanboy homage not actually relevant to the story itself and clutters things up.

The story itself isn’t a bad one – there’s a wesen run amok (of course), but it’s a very unique shapeshifting Wesen that I can’t decide is either very original or a really extreme stretch from Grimm’s original canon (can you tell this was a big thing with me?). It had a nice twist on the usual “bad guy looks like the protagonist!” meme – especially since everyone DIDN’T fall for it (something which generally annoys me). It wasn’t a complex one, nor, with the desperate need to fill in homages and include every wesen that has ever existed ever, was it a particularly well paced one. It was also more than a little distrected with side plots to pull in every character, again, less for plot reasons and more out of some kind of wish to include the whole of the show. It wasn’t awesome but it was still a decent read and served as an excellent vehicle for getting the characters and world over. It let me play in a world I love and with characters I like so much – the game wasn’t exciting or original, but it was still worth it.

Inclusionwise it pretty much parallels the show on racial diversity: Hank and Wu are there but not in any massive role. We have Rosalie and Juliette both being awesome, skilled, aware, intelligent and even dangerous at times reminding us of both their strengths which was good to see. Like the show, there are no LGBT characters

The enemy wesen is suffering from something that resembles alzheimers. And while there could be an interesting story to be told of various supernatural beings with a disabling and degenerative disease like this, instead it kind of just made the wesen dangerous and deadly which is a common and unpleasant trope with many depictions of mental illness.

On the whole I liked this book – I liked the characterisation and the glimpse into everyone’s heads. I loved the evolving Wesen society of Portland and I loved the potential hints of where these characters are going, the different angles of them we’ve never seen before an the vast amount of information it added that I really hope to see translated over. But I’m not sure how much all of that happiness would last if it was confirmed (as I suspect) that these books are completely non-canon.