[Note: This review is dedicated to Grammar Atheist Hyblaean-Julie]
Editor or storyteller? Which would you rather be stranded with on the proverbial uninhabited island, assuming either would be too old and/or physically unattractive to distract from the choice? Or, let's try it this way: which would you rather curl up with on a lazy summer afternoon, a copy of Elements of Style by Strunk and White or Charlotte's Web by E.B. White?
All those who would choose the style book over the novel need read no further. I have great respect for Elements of Style, which has taught me much, including how to write effective prose with clarity and accuracy, and reading it again might shed some light on how a storyteller spins words into magic. But it can't convey that magic. What it does is the same as explaining why a joke is funny instead of making us laugh.
Kenneth Sibbett, whom we all know as Scanner, is a storyteller. That's not news to anyone who reads Scanner's work on OS regularly. But what might surprise even his devoted fans is that Scanner's storytelling is so engaging, so powerful, so ingenious that he needs no editor for this to be abundantly clear to anybody who reads for entertainment rather than the sublime academic satisfactions to be derived from exquisitely placed commas, sexy symmetries of proper participle performance or the sheer unmitigated majesty of perfect spelling.
Scanner's novel, A Killer of Angels, is a showcase for the primacy of narrative over nitpicking. Scanner wrote this novel with the same daring and raw talent as a highwire artist who boogaloos along a spaghetti-thin cable from one edge of the Grand Canyon to the other. There's no net above the canyon floor, and there was no editor covering Scanner's ass when he sent this novel to the presses.
It might be nice to have the best of both worlds – Sibbett's masterful storytelling rendered bump-free by an expert editor. It's also nice to see a precious gem prepared and displayed as fine jewelry. Yet, can you imagine the thrill of running your fingers through a bucket of mud and coming up with an uncut ruby, emerald, sapphire or diamond?
I admit the idea of reading a novel about a serial killer who preys on young girls did not cry out to me to be read. But I liked the cover Diana Ani Stokely designed. Liked it a lot (you can see it below) and, of course, I love Scanner.
So what about this killer of young girls? He's everything you would expect him to be. He's evil, of course. Evil in a way that may forever taint your appreciation of the alleged innocence of every cute little toddler you ever see again. Here's the question: How can a creature so loathsome he'll give you nightmares be a character you root for when he comes head to head with another major character whose villainy is equally terrifying? It's Frankenstein v. Dracula or Birds v. Triffids. Unthinkable, and yet...
You can cheer for the killer of young girls. You will cheer for him, as have I, unless I've slipped off the rails here, and if that's the case Scanner's storytelling ability is damned near as dangerous as his characters are to anyone who gets in their way.
Scanner develops his characters with meticulous care, bringing them into frightening focus. We can see them. We can practically smell the bastards. We wouldn't want to live on the same planet with them, and yet...when it comes to a showdown between the two baddest of the bad, the one who starts out appalling us so terribly we want to see him squashed like a bug and flushed down the toilet, he's the one we find ourselves silently cheering and hoping nobody ever finds out. That I'm admitting as much in this review is more caveat than confession. Don't worry, I've already been punished in my recent nightmares and I'm sure there'll be more to come.
Read A Killer of Angels if you dare.