Yesterday Veronica Roth’s Divergent almost became the latest book atop the DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. I put it down, feeling the kind of frustration in my heart that only comes from really poor ideas slapped together by big business for mass market appeal.
Divergent, I felt, was at best a Hunger Games fanfiction and at worst a Twilight spin-off. The world has little depth, very little to actually classify it as dystopian, and is traversed by boring, cookie-cutter characters intended to stir some sense of familiarity within teenage readers. The action scenes are almost excruciating to read: the author has obviously done zero research into combat and hell, the physics of the human body. The whole “divergent” plot line is incredibly trite and unbelievable, is rarely mentioned, and seems completely inconsequential.
After I put it down, I picked up Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal, Necromancer, which I’ve been wanting to read for months. In no time at all I was laughing, happy and carefree, reminiscing of my own time spent as a teenager attempting to summon demons and resurrect the dead. Sigh. Good times.
I only read a little of Johannes Cabal, but it put me in such a good mood that I was prepared to tackle Divergent once more. And you know what? I’m glad I did. Because once I got past that head-bangingly bad combat scene (if you’ve read it you’ll know the one, the second day of initiation where they fist-fight each other), I actually started to enjoy the story. None of the bad things went away – physical sensibilities in particular remain a weak point for Roth – for instance, main character Tris gains so much muscle in the space of one week that she can no longer fit her pants on over her bulging thighs – but they started to blend in with the story rather than sticking out like odd lumps in confoundingly tight pants. Yes, the world is still lazy and contrived, but at least now we have the sense that it’s meant to seem that way, and there’s much more going on behind the scenes. Tris is a surprisingly good character. She’s kind of Katniss, but she’s got a sense of wit and youth as well as toughness which really set her apart. Four is also pretty decent, and some of Tris’s friends are coming into their own.
So now I’m invested in the story, and I might even finish it tonight. It’s an easy read and propels itself along like a squid in a wheelbarrow. The thing is.
The thing is.
The only way I was able to force myself back into reading it was to mentally replace Four’s character with Johannes Cabal.
As you may imagine, this did necessitate some changes to the story. Like so:
And this minor alteration to the original text:
“I keep trying to help you,” Johannes says, “but you refuse to be helped.”
“Oh, right, your help.” I say. “Stabbing my ear with a knife and taunting me and yelling at me more than you yell at anyone else, it sure is helpful.”
“Taunting you? You mean when I threw the knives? I wasn’t taunting you,” he snaps. “I was trying to behead you.”
SENSE THE ROMANTIC TENSION IN THAT LAST LINE? IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL I COULD CRY.
Admittedly, the task is becoming harder now that Cabal is warming up to Tris (that’s so out of character), but I’ve invested a lot imaginary energy in this and I’m not about to give up. Cabal is just going to have to bring his big gun and his Gladstone bag along to whatever achingly real and thrilling gritty action-packed realistic future vision Roth thinks up next.
All we need now for the circle to be complete is a Johannes Cabal movie starring Zac Efron and Liam Hemsworth.