StarDust Press, $5.98, ISBN 978-981-05-7571-7
Sci-fi Romantic Suspense, 2007
Death by Indifference is quite a morbid title even for a romantic suspense, isn’t it? This story is set in 2021 when stem cell research breakthroughs have allowed people to live a little longer – the average lifespan for a woman is now 100 years or so. Our heroine Tess Avery is 48. And it’s a good indication of how this book is going to be when within the first few pages of this book I find Tess arguing with herself, aloud, over the definition of “middle age” as she moans about how growing old sucks. “Growing old sucks!” will be something that Tess keeps saying throughout the story, as if that is the only shred of personality she has. And that’s pretty sad, isn’t it?
In this story, Tess talks aloud to the “Wicked Witch”, her conscience or something, argues with herself, and even sticks her tongue out. Maybe author Caitlyn Hunter thinks that Tess is being cute that way, but with her reminding me often that Tess is “growing old”, I find myself wondering if Tess is, say, schizophrenic or experiencing some kind of senile dementia. I also find myself wondering how old the author really is, because her treatment of the subject of growing old has a curiously adolescent tinge to it. Ms Hunter writes about aging the way, say, a thirteen-year old sheltered girl, whose only exposure to sex is via those scenes in VC Andrews‘s novels, writes about sex in her Harry Potter fanfiction.
And despite being a down-to-earth futuristic romantic suspense with no werewolves or vampires in sight, this book still uses the word “soulmate” (or “soul mate”, depending on what chapter it is). Just what is wrong with the word “boyfriend”? One of these days I will snap after one “soulmate” too many, get myself a Zen shopping cart program, and launch something dire like Harlequin Soulmates to flood the market with imprints like My Little Pony erotica so that everyone will be very sorry that they use that word as if they are paid every time they do so.
Ah yes, the plot. In this story, Tess’s life becomes slightly more than a non-stop whine about aging when the men she dates start falling dead. No, it’s not because of her looks or anything – some crazy fellow appoints himself the judge and jury of the men in her life and he decides that these fellow are not going enough for her. Our hero Lt Sam Marshall is onto the case and sparks fly, but of course, whether he can survive the affections of Tess is a different story.
The thing about this book is, yikes, Ms Hunter really writes like… I don’t know. The best way I can describe her writing style is that I find myself imagining the author either as a very young girl or a very elderly church-going lady. There is an “I’m doing this because nobody can stop me, hee-hee!” manner as to which the main characters cuss, for example. The F word is used liberally in a manner that feels more gratuitous than anything else – the liberal use of the F word feels forced and fake, as if the author is imagining that this is how people cuss in real life. Tess is 48 but speaks either like a pink-taffeta clad elderly lady trying too hard to be cute (saying “Crud!” instead of “Crap!”) or cussing like a ten-year old girl imitating grown-ups. Her way of thinking also feels like that of some teenager trying too hard to be “snarky” rather than a genuine woman who have lived and experienced life for 48 years like Ms Hunter claims Tess has.
Tess’s friends are also “special” people – those amazingly open-minded people who go the extra mile in affirmative action and being poster people for society’s prejudice against gay people and what-not. There is a kitchen-sink feel of Mary Sue-like vibe in this story, as if the author is trying too hard to make her characters extra-special and extra-wonderful people rather than realistic people with strengths as well as flaws.
I find it very hard to get into Death by Indifference because the writing style is one I find hard to get used to. I don’t know this author in real life, but judging from this book alone, I find myself thinking that it’s the work of a precocious teenager. The depiction of adults come off like what a teenager will imagine an adult would be like, they often speak like they are teenagers (babbling about “soul mates”, always a phrase associated with obsessive fans of teen soap operas, doesn’t help change my mind), and the prose is really rough and unpolished.
Perhaps if we change Tess’s age from 48 to 15 and adapt this story into a young adult tale, Death by Indifference will be a more credible read. As it is, this book is too much like something submitted by a student for her very first creative writing class. Judging from this book alone, Caitlyn Hunter comes off like someone whose ideas far outweigh her current ability to express these ideas down on paper. This is one of those stories that should have been kept in the drawer until Ms Hunter has enough writing experience to one day return to it and rework it into something resembling a work of publishable quality.