Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Shadow by James Patterson and Brian Stitts (2021)


Choices were made. Now I am a fan of the Shadow so I have to admit I was a little perplexed by some of the choices made here.

I get Conde Naste's choice to reboot The Shadow (and Doc Savage). I get why they chose James Patterson (and friends) as the writer(s).

Patterson as a brand is much like the old school pulp writers churning out stories.

Now I get those choices. Others not so much.  Now some choices were external to the book.

Sanctum had a long running reprint program of the Shadow and was approaching the end of those reprints, when Conde Naste told them the licence was expiring, Sanctum upped production and asked for a little extra time to get the last couple of issues out.  Conde Naste said no and the reprints remain incomplete.

Now this seems like a move to upset the fans, it does nothing to make the faithful look favourably on this new book.

But hey this was all external to the book itself and wasn’t the authors fault and I shouldn’t judge the final product because of corporate Argy bargy.

So I found a cheap copy at a book sale and grabbed it. I went in with an open mind.

(When telling this to my wife she says “Yeah I can see the fraction of a millimetre you have your mind open.”)

So I read the book and choices were made in the making of the book.

Now the book opens with Lamont Cranston meeting Margo Lane for dinner – both have news. Lamont is going to propose and Margo is pregnant. Then Shiwan Khan poisons them. Lamont races and has both of them put into suspended animation.

Ok we want to get The Shadow out of the 1930s/40s and that’s a way to do it.  Hey it worked for Sherlock Holmes three times. (The Return of Sherlock Holmes(1987), Sherlock Holmes Returns (1992) and Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (1999-2001)).

I get that but we don’t see the Shadow in action in the 1930s. If I was not aware of who/what the Shadow was I’d be in the dark, we’re told a few times that he was a detective but we aren’t shown that.  Why take the Shadow off the board in 1937?

That’s when the radio program started. The pulp series had been running since 1931 and the Shadow was been the narrator of The Detective Story hour in 1930. But his arguably most famous incarnation that formed the basis of this version of the Shadow is sort of wiped off the board.

(There is a scene later where Lamont says that he never dressed like the pulp version and he thought it odd that the radio show revealed his real name.)

The story then jumps ahead 150 years to 2037. We are introduced to Maddy Gomes who is about to turn 18 and receive her inheritance. Now Maddy is named in this will not her grandmother or her parents.  Maddy can do the Jedi mind trick and control people.

Her parts are told in first person and Lamont and Margot’s in third person which can be a little distracting.

Oh yeah The Shadow’s history is changed no longer is he a World War One ace, he and Shiwan Khan are ten thousand year old monks trained in mystic arts.  This kinda ruins the whole Shiwan Khan is the descendant of Genghis Khan (1162-1227) that is the character’s thing.

Also Lamont suddenly gets new abilities like throwing fireballs and shapeshifting into a cat and wall.  Shiwan can also shapeshift, he becomes a runaway bus at one point.

The plot has Maddy waking up Lamont exploring the world where World Leader Gizmonde rules with an iron fist and the poor are getting poorer.  And there is an EEEEVIL!!!! Plan to poison large groups of people with food.

Maddy wakes up Margo and the three of them try to stop Gizmonde who we discover is Shiwan Khan.

Maddy gets trained by Lamont and can turn herself invisible.

Margo doesn’t mention that she was pregnant until the end of the adventure assuming that she had lost the baby, which is possible but you’ve been in status for 150 years unaging pretty sure the baby would be too.

Or we discover that she had the baby, How? Who knows?

That female baby grew up and had a baby and so on and so forth until Maddy.  Yep she’s their multiple great granddaughter.

I didn’t get any of the choices made to change things – it felt like Patterson and Stitts had novel about Maddy fighting the man in a dystopia and shoehorned the Shadow update very badly.  There were times I wanted to fling the book across the room, the choices made were so confusing and mind boggling – it was like it wanted to have its cake and eat it too.

I tried, I really wanted some enjoyable new Shadow adventures but this ain’t it.  There’s second book “Circle of Death” but I don’t think I’ll be reading that one anytime soon.

And really neither cover sets the world on fire.

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