Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Hidden Mickey #1 by Nancy Temple Rodrique and David Walter Smith

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The action scenes were fun
Cons: Everything else
The Bottom Line
Few good action scenes
Are not enough to correct
Many basic flaws

Flawed Quest Through Disney's History

A friend recommended some books to me that were described as a National Treasure type romp through Disney’s history.  I was intrigued, but hesitant since the books were self-published.  When I found the authors selling and signing their books at the 2011 LA Times Festival of Books, I broke down and got the first one.  Having just read Hidden Mickey: Sometimes Dead Men Do Tell Tales, I wish I had listened to the part of me telling me to avoid them.

Adam and Lance are excited about the latest MouseAdventure challenge at Disneyland.  They’ve learned that one of the clues will take them into Walt’s apartment on Main Street.  As Disney geeks, they are thrilled.

While they are there, Adam stumbles across a book hidden in a chair cushion.  He quickly discovers that it claims to be Walt Disney’s diary, and a clue in it leads Adam and Lance off on a wild ride through his life.  Each stop they make leaves them Disney memorabilia and the next clue.  Where is this all leading?

Now let’s be clear – there were parts of the book I did enjoy.  After all, it was Disney, and many of the clues led them to various things and attractions in Disneyland.  It’s cool.  I found those parts fascinating, and sometimes edge of your seat suspenseful.  But the problems were enough to annoy me.

And what were the problems?  Where do I even start?

How about with the plot.  It’s extremely repetitive.  Adam and Lance get a clue.  They spend some time researching and hit one or two dead ends before they figure things out and head off in the right location.  There, they find the next clue and return home.  Repeat and repeat and repeat.  The actual scenes where they were hunting for the clue were cool, but too much time was spent spinning wheels between those scenes.  (But for the next person who complains about them figuring out the clues in National Treasure too easily, I’ve got proof it was a good thing.)  I just read a biography of Walt Disney, and there were lots of these clues I wouldn’t have figured out easily, so I’m not saying these scenes weren’t realistic, but they were boring.  Although there is one clue that would have been much more obvious to any Disney fanatic like these two were supposed to be.

As if this endless cycle weren’t enough, the pacing of the novel was uneven.  For example, we have a twenty page chapter that yields two pages of character development.  No, I’m not exaggerating.  It was character development we needed, but it could have easily happened on a drive or flight to the next clue.  Then there are the data dumps where the authors filled us in on everything possibly related to Disney or the area where the characters were.  Hence lessons on local flowers and horses at one point.  Or mentioning every attraction or restaurant the characters pass in the opening scene in Disneyland.

There is one twist in the story.  I’m not going to spoil it, but it doesn’t follow from what came before in the story.

Moving on to the characters, Adam and Lance are supposed to be good friends who met in college and are almost inseparable.  Now, I have lots of good friends, and we love to tease each other.  However, the way Lance treated Adam went well beyond teasing.  Honestly, if I had a friend who treated me the way he did almost all the time, I don’t know that we would have stayed friends.  While they do have enough personality that we care about them, it doesn’t go much beyond that.

One of the clues the two follow take them to the part of the country where I live.  They were on a freeway I drive 5 days a week.  And the authors get even that small detail wrong.  It was a throwaway line about which freeways meet up, but they couldn’t spend the two minutes it would take to look freeways up on the internet.

Not that this is my biggest complaint with the writing.  Overall, it was pedestrian.  There were no clever phrases or anything interesting about it.

One of my biggest pet peeves is authors who don’t get point of view right.  These authors messed it up big time.  We often went from Adam to Lance and back again in as many paragraphs.  It doesn’t help that they were always telling us how the characters were feeling instead of showing it to us. 

I rarely read a book that is close to 500 pages, so when I decide to do that, I expect something well written enough to make it worth my time.  And there was certainly that potential here.  Instead, it becomes an example of all that is wrong with self-publishing.  I think if the authors had gotten true constructive feedback in terms of story structure and character development, I would have enjoyed it a lot more.  Instead, it reads like a rough draft in need of editing.

Even with all this said, I was almost tempted to read more books in the series.  That is until I started reading about the plots of future books and realize that most of these characters don’t return in future installments.  The strange plots killed that little bit of desire to move on and learn more about the characters.

It’s sad, really.  Hidden Mickey: Sometimes Dead Men Do Tell Tales has an interesting premise that should have been lots of fun.  As it stands, the few interesting scenes weren’t enough to overcome the book's many flaws.

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