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Greg Vilk: Golem


Crescent Blues Book Views Ricochet (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-9772189-0-2

Book: greg vilk, golem
The author of this short novel served as a visual effects technical director for companies like DreamWorks, and unfortunately it shows. Golem offers less a novel and more a treatment for a screenplay, complete with lots of explosions, cardboard subsidiary characters introduced for the sole purpose of meeting a gruesome end, unexplained (if not inexplicable) plot progressions whose illogicality a moviemaker might reckon would escape the notice of the thrilled audience but which leap out only too starkly from the printed page, and the distinct sense that you're seeing bits and pieces jig-sawed together from earlier action movies. Combine all this and more with a prose style that not so much graces the page as lurches and staggers across it, and you'll understand why it took your reviewer an inordinately long while to plow his way through the novel's mere 170 large-print pages. In fact, I spent much of the time repeatedly thumbing back through previous sections in a desperate effort to find out what the heck was supposed to be going on.

During World War II, the Nazis kidnap archaeo-linguist Professor Benedict and take both him and the secret he discovered -- the art of raising the Golem -- to a secret base in Greenland in the hopes of learning how to make lots of lethal, indestructible clay soldiers. The bunch of US special-ops malcontents (complete with exaggerated but forgettable characteristics) assigned to track the Nazis to their lair could well be the Dirty Dozen except that I never came up with the same answer twice whenever I tried to count them.

With these lovable toughs goes token female May, the linguist daughter of the abducted boffin and Equity-registered hot babe. From the moment she and good-guy leader Leash clap eyes on each other it becomes pretty obvious that he will shortly (a) get over the fact that he's been previously Unhappy In Love and (b) into a tangle of limbs with Ms. Benedict about two sentences after the end of the book. Similarly, as soon as the troop's watery-eyed, morphine-addicted sawbones appears on the scene, you can be dead certain he will betray our heroes to the nasties, and our author does not disappoint.

The Golem itself proves quite a fun creation, seemingly designed so the special effects crew will have a whale of a good time when someone makes the movie. It can whip up whatever happens to be lying around and put all these bits of debris together into a man-like shape, in which form it can pulverize people. Further, with each such "incarnation," it gets BIGGER, so that by the time it gets its inevitable comeuppance in the face of a solid hail of American grit, pluck, determination, resourcefulness, raw testosterone and probably apple pie, we see it stomping across the icy wastes like Godzilla with a hangover, its limbs being made up of assemblages of stuff like tanks and artillery.

As for that prose… well, a few examples suffice:

She was comely; a slight skew of the cheekbones only lent her face a stronger punch.

The air grew so thick with tension that even the wind outside backed off to a safe distance.

He whispered under his nose.

May furrowed her brow. Her pupils jittered side to side, as if her frontal lobes were doing heavy lifting. Her gaze was so intense, it looked like her skull could blow up in a puff of hot steam at any moment. Then her face lit up with a divine epiphany.







John Grant

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