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Story Time Mickey Huyck Review by
Michael T. Huyck Jr.
By James Powlik
Dell Publishing
481 pages
PB $6.99
ISBN 0-440-23508-1


It was the creepy ghost ship on the cover that nabbed me. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. But the Flying Dutchman this wasn't. SEA CHANGE isn't a ghost story - it's a techno-thriller. Damn.

Plot-wise, I cannot complain. It's solid. Powlik takes us up to the great northwest where something in the cold Pacific waters is killing humans and critters in nasty ways. And while this something behaves like a sea borne microorganism, it also misbehaves. It doesn't travel the way it's supposed to travel. It doesn't target for the kill what it's supposed to target. And it just, well, disappears sometimes. Drops in, eats, and scoots. Like a quick dinner at McDonalds - except the wrappers are bloodier.

With one exception, Powlik's writing is strong. He carries off narrative and dialogue equally well and balances his action scenes against the investigation to keep the pacing up. And there's a regular body count (human and otherwise) to keep us ghouls happy.

But for the exception…

In the "About the Author" section we learn that Powlik is really Dr. Powlik - biologist, oceanographer, and adviser to several environmental agencies. Consultant to the National Science Foundation, NASA, and that ilk. And it really, really shows. The fact that there's an eleven-page glossary at the book's end says it all.

The technical is explained in detail. You, gentle reader, will grow to understand every facet of the offending munchers family, friends, and sex life. And to entrench it in your mind, some facets will be repeated ad nauseum.

Some would argue that this is necessary to enhance the reality of the reading experience. Hit 'em with something really scary and then prove exactly why it could be (or is) real. The terror will flow deep in their veins, right?

No. Not with me. I just get bored. Let me know what I need to know to make the plot work and leave it at that.

Collateral damage results with over-information, as well. Remember, up above, that I positively commented on the pacing? Well, I need to couch that. The book's pacing, as a whole, works okay. But when the dialogue explores the menace's devices or conundrums, the affected chapter drags on like a cross-country Greyhound excursion.

Characterization suffers as well. Often one Ph.D bio-whatever character will spell out, in layman terms, a relevant facet while speaking to another Ph.D bio-whatever. Yeah, like that's gonna happen. The characters become two-dimensional college profs on lecture and effectively speak down to the audience. Ouch.

So - for those of you who delve into the hardcore, this is a recommended read. The rest of you should wait for the movie.

Give it three BookWyrms.


This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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