Wild Ride - Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer Upon the second reading, two years after its release, I liked this book much better. Much-much better! I’m bumping its rating too: from 3 stars to 4 stars. Although I’m still not exactly happy about the protagonists and bewildered by their strange pairings, I think that the depictions of secondary characters, especially the demon Fufluns, are superb, enriching the narrative considerably. And on the second reading, the story did become funny, or rather ironical. I smiled a lot and I enjoyed reading this tale. It’s different from the first two novels by the same authors, which might explain why I resisted its veiled charm on the first reading. But as soon as I opened my mind to possibilities, this unusual novel made me a convert.
The novel takes place in an amusement park with a paranormal twist: it is a demon prison. Predictably, the demons want to escape and wreak havoc on the world, and the park owners aka prison wardens want to prevent their escape. Also predictably, the two protagonists, thrust into the middle of this demonic trouble, want nothing to do with the supernatural.
Middle-aged Mab, a restoration professional, has been hired to refurbish the decaying park to its former glory. She enjoys making beautiful things but she doesn’t like people. And of course, she doesn’t believe in demons. Neither does Ethan, a wounded former Green Beret, who came home from a war zone to die. He drinks too much, sleeps in the woods, and keeps his service gun close to hand.
The premise is rich with possibilities, but the story doesn’t utilize them. The exotic milieu of an amusement park is wasted on the solemn tone of the novel; it should have been a comic caper. The romantic tangles are also convoluted, built along the wrong lines, as if they were prompted by a sly demon. Upon reading, the reader is left scratching his head: who was supposed to love whom? Why did they switch?
Furthermore, the heroes behave like ignorant children, without logic or foresight to guide them. They never inform each other of their actions, as if cell phones haven’t been invented yet. They let the bad guy Ray run amok and do whatever he pleases, although that might be a plot device, because it seems that Ray’s wicked deeds are the only things that propel the plot forward.
After two previous smash hits by the same authors – the witty Don't Look Down and the deliciously hilarious Agnes and the Hitman – I expected their third creation to be a brilliant escapade: a romantic comedy with a thriller flavor. Sadly, after reading the novel, I felt cheated. The novel is neither funny, nor spooky. The demons are unnecessary and the heroes are cartoonish, although at times the demons seem more alive than the humans. They are definitely smarter than humans. Maybe it should have been their story?