Trek Press, $2.99, ISBN 978-0-962-09406-8
Historical Romance, 2018
On the Edge of Daylight is a romance story set on the RMS Titanic. Hah, bet you have that song stuck in your head now! Please don’t tell me you are too young to have seen that movie – la, la, la, I can’t hear you. (And I hate you.)
Oh, and this story is pretty honest about its origin as fanfiction, which kind of explains how we have a female officer onboard, and she’s faultless and flawless to such a degree that MS in the name of the ship must be short for you-know-what. Mind you, I’m not disputing the presence of female officers on that ship – yes, there were quite a number of them – it’s just that our heroine unfortunately conforms to a large number of stereotypes that make the Mary Sue something to cringe at rather than to cheer for.
Esther Bailey, our heroine, is the newest junior officer of the Ship of Dreams. During her entrance in this story, she is already wisecracking in her head about the impending sexism she is bound to face when she gets on board. What a woke, brave, courageous woman! She soon clashes with First Officer William McMaster Murdoch – yes, he was married when the ship sank, but he’s single in this story- as she basically la-la-lands her way onboard with her feisty ways to score woke points about feminism and what not. Murdoch doesn’t seem too keen on her at first, but we all know that none can withstand the sassy powers of the Esther Sue.
Here’s the thing. The ship sinks in the end. (Go ahead and tell me that is a spoiler – I dare you.) That’s a pretty catastrophic denouement – many, many lives will be lost when the ship hits that iceberg. The reader already knows that something terrible and exciting (for the want of a better word) will eventually happen, so the story has better slowly build itself up to that moment in a manner that matches the reader’s mounting anticipation (“Someone’s going to die… they are all going to die… oh my god…”). For all of James Cameron’s fault as a scriptwriter – and he sure has many of them – he was absolutely right in giving the story of Rose DeWitt-Bukater and Jack Dawson a nihilistic overtone. These two don’t know it yet, but the people in the audience know full well that the end is nigh for most of the characters on the ship, so Rose throwing all caution to the wind and abandoning the rigid social conventions of her time feel so appropriate in a “one last celebration, one last chance to live, before the end comes for us all” kind of way.
In On the Edge of the Daylight, though, the author focuses on how awesome the heroine is, how her beauty and sassy presence charm the surly Murdoch. Beauteous sassy goddess delivering a blow against sexism back in those days! Amazing talented woke heroine reminisces about her family! Awesome American feminist woman shows the chauvinist Brits how people of that country are more woke than everyone else!
Who cares? No, really – who cares? If she has issues with those chauvinist donkeys, well, most of them will die anyway, so whoop-bee-do. Esther thinks about her ex-fiancé and how that jackass refused to acknowledge her awesomeness… look, the ship is going to sink, people are going to die, Jack will freeze to death, and Rose will look forlornly in the distance even as that “Ooh-ooh-ooh” refrain plays mournfully in the background. But that’s okay, because I will weep when I remember how Rose managed to get one shag with her boyfriend in the back of that car – thank god the owner probably died and didn’t have to look at the mess these two left in the backseat – and how she found the courage to defy conventions, lived to the grand old age of 567, and then threw some necklace into the sea before going to heaven to be with Jack forever and ever and I CRY AND I CLAP MY HANDS BECAUSE OH MY GOD I LOVE THAT MOVIE SO, SO MUCH.
This one, though, it spends way too much time on issues that feel so petty and mundane compared to the denouement that everyone knows is coming, and unlike a movie, I can’t fast forward this one to the good scenes. Oh wait, I can, but I’m obligated to review this one for all of you, so I can’t. I only want to know whether the hero and the heroine will be allowed to survive the great glug-glug-glug, but to get there, I have to sit through over 300 pages of details, angst, and such that feel so vapid and trivial compared to the WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE thing that will happen eventually. This story should be building up my feeling of dread and fearful anticipation, not dwelling so much on mundane matters as if these people had all the time in the world.
Ironically, I feel that if the author had allowed this Murdoch to be a married man, and the whole love story is basically one borne out of desperate, adulterous passion or other nihilistic elements, then this story would have worked.
When the inevitable happens, and when I finally close this one, I feel more relieved than anything else. Like 900-year old Rose after throwing that necklace, I am finally free to move on to a more beautiful place. Or, in my case, a more interesting story. Fingers crossed.