Book Title: Nimbus
Author: Tony Marturano
Year Published: 2001
Publisher: Glacyk Publishing
Nimbus is… just another self-published thriller, I’m sorry to say. I had to read it for a science fiction book club, and while many of the scenes were amusingly campy, it’s too badly put together to win the title of “good book”. The editing is really bad and there are typos and errors on most of the pages (example: “lightening” instead of lightning and “women” instead of woman). It does have a unique premise: something in the rain is making people go crazy and there’s some scientific explanation given at the end. But that’s about as far as the innovation goes. The plot is an incoherent but admittedly thrilling collection of scenes of murder and mayhem. The characters don’t so much seek out the cause of the problem as stumble into it via deus ex machina. At times it feels like the author cut scenes out of a horror movie and James Bond movie and scotch-taped them together with a science fiction theme.
First a chemical plant in Greenland explodes, releasing an experimental anti-depressant drug into the atmosphere. Tony Marturano adds a nice touch by describing a wolf looking on and wondering at human folly. The main character, Blake, is introduced. He works at an environmental agency in England for an asshole boss. Asshole boss interrupts a guy who brings up concerns about the chemical plant explosion. Blake reunites with Sky, an old girlfriend from college who still feels like she’s socially beneath Blake despite being a successful forensic pathologist. They rekindle their romance between chapters describing the havoc the toxic rain is wreaking.
A (big) side note on that: Stopping the plot for the main characters to make love is extremely frustrating because Blake and Sky both hold doctoral degrees but any hint of them using their brains to save the world is either not done or done offpage and casually brought in later. The Dragon and the Needle, an even worse self-published thriller, suffered from the same flaw: sex and violence being used as filler to pump up the pagecount (salacious filler is still filler). Authors think that adding lots of sex and violence makes a book “fast-paced” but it doesn’t if those scenes don’t create or solve problems then the plot is stationary.
These kinds of books have a cinematic feeling to them, but not in a good way. A book requires more time and energy to consume than a movie, and there are no special effects to illustrate fight scenes and explosions. If you’re writing for pure spectacle and hoping for a Hollywood movie deal, why not write a script instead? A badly written movie is more entertaining than a badly written book because in a movie, the writing is only one element among many: there are directors, actors, composers, set designers, all pouring their creative efforts into the finished product. The imaginative effort of one reader is not enough to compensate for the lack of effort or skill on the writer’s part.
I do not believe that a shallow book can be good. Some people argue that fiction should be primarily for entertainment, but I think being intellectually stimulating is a large part of that entertainment value. Reading ─ turning written words into auditory thoughts into imagined sensations ─ is already a demanding intellectual activity, the author might as well give the reader somewhere to go while their motor’s running.
Anyway, the plot eventually catches up to Blake and Sky and they find themselves running from rain-crazy people until a deus ex machina helicopter comes to pick them up and take them to a hospital. Then another deus ex machina helicopter comes and takes them to an oil tanker where the bad guy is. They listen to the bad guy’s evil monologue, some stuff happens, and the oil tanker sinks. They are saved from the sinking oil tanker by ─ surprise! ─ another deus ex machina helicopter.
Purely as a warning, here are some of the things (taken from the pages of Nimbus) that might make it into your finished book if you don’t hire a professional editor:
- Overused phrases: people take the stairs “two at a time” on three separate occasions.
- Unnecessary, arbitrary commas: “They were walking down a long, clinically white, corridor.”
- Awkwardly literal metaphors like: “the dry sand dune that was his throat.”
- Characters getting called by other characters’ names.
- “Grizzly details”
- A character tries to stab another character with a bread knife.
To avoid these and other egregious mistakes, hire me! Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll clean your writing so well it sparkles. I work for cheap ($10 an hour) and I’m open to editing just about anything with words, including: books, school essays, blog posts, and business materials.
Nimbus was not a good book, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever read. The plot was simple and had too many diversions but at least it existed. The characters were boring but I didn’t hate them. There were some nice descriptive flourishes in the grislier scenes that made me nauseous in a good way. The dialogue sounded natural most of the time (with the notable exception: “What do you want from us?” “I just want you to die!”). It’s not quite robust enough to earn three stars, but not stupid enough for one, so it gets a two.