Thursday, September 27, 2012

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Published April 15, 2009.

Author website.

Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla's inventions dooms them...and one could save them.  (

For the first half of DISTANT WAVES I was wondering what the hell this book had to do with the Titanic.  It was mentioned once or twice in off-hand remarks, and not by name, and a couple of the people that were on board made appearances within the story but other than that it was a story that centered around Spiritualism, a mother defrauding people with her mystic "skills" and her daughters' lives as a result of this woman's charade.  The story in and of itself wasn't bad.  I actually found it pretty interesting and I liked Jane but don't give me 'A Novel of the Titanic' and not have the ship make an appearance until halfway through the book.  That's going to make me cranky.  I don't like to be cranky when I read.

Once the Titanic did show up it played its role like it does in any other story about it; you're reading the melodrama occurring on it all the while just holding your breath to see how the main event is going to destroy everything nice that's seemingly going on.  I didn't like how the sisters got onto the boat.  It was just far too contrived for my tastes and I really don't think the people letting on passengers would have let stowaways slip by.  Considering the ship and all the hype it should have been something the White Star Line was prepared for.

The ending pretty much murdered what was otherwise and interesting story.  I'm okay with authors taking liberties with history but to take major events and alter their causes for the sake of the story is really bothersome.  To the point where I was audibly going 'what???"

All sense of immediacy was gone as the iceberg was approaching.  No one seemed to be all that worried about it from those watching it head right towards the ship.  Then Tesla tests his magical mystery machine and supposedly breaks the ship.  It didn't REALLY hit the iceberg.  Excuse me?  And as the ship sank?  Poof, gone.  The major cataclysmic event was literally blinked out of the plot.  Gone.  Ground zero happens, people start running around a little confused, poof Jane is being rescued by the Carpathia.  I'm not even talking about a sentence to say it sank.  An element happened that actually eliminated the sinking from the story and skipped right to the rescue.  Infuriated would be a good word to describe me.  How do you have 'a novel of the Titanic' and just skip the sinking?

The individual elements of DISTANT WAVES were good; I liked the Spiritualism aspect, how historical people were factored into the plot, all of the characters were likable on some level and it even got a hint steampunky.  But I think the Titanic itself ruins this story of the Titanic for me simply because it was so bastardized.  The author actually altered history to serve her plot.  No.  Me no likey.  If that kind of thing doesn't bother you then you might just like DISTANT WAVES.  Like I said it's a pretty good story.  But the Titanic is killer.  No pun intended.  Too much was changed in a story that was only supposed to be historical fiction, not alt history or the like.  It's unfortunate but that's the way it is, I guess.  Titanic in one book and the rest of the plot in another, yes.  Both would have been good.  But they just didn't mix well, like a recipe whose ingredients didn't quite mesh.

Ban Factor: Low - An historical fiction centered around the Titanic.  One can hardly pick a more prudish time in our history.  The Spiritualism might offend but that's assuming they know what the word means.  One mustn't overestimate the banners.
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