Rebirth - Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle Book Review
WARNING: Contains some spoilers!
Ok so where I do begin! First I should probably explain how BIG of a Pretender fan I am. I basically grew up watching this show. I was 10 when it first aired and I even remember seeing the first advertisement on TV announcing that it was coming on and I was already hooked. After a 30 second ad I knew I needed to watch it. Watching the show was basically my childhood and early teen years. Any chance my sister and I had we would be watching it (we used to record the episodes on VHS - this was before TiVo) and re-watching it and re-watching it. We saw the 'Bank' episode (our favourite at the time) so many times that we could quote the ENTIRE episode word for word. Every word! Words that we didn't even understand. Whenever we got sent to bed early we would start quoting that episode and 40 or so minutes later we were done and more awake than ever. Are you getting how BIG a fan I am now? I was so devastated when the show got taken off air and this was a time when internet access wasn't easily accessible so I had no idea what had happened - all I knew was that it was gone. So you can imagine my excitement 12 years later when I discovered Steve and Craig (the wonderful creators) were bringing the Pretender back.
I should probably explain a little about the Pretender for anyone who is unfortunate enough to have not seen this truly amazing show. Jarod is a genius who has the ability to become anyone that he wants to be. He was taken from his family at a young age by a corporation known as the Centre and raised by psychiatrist and father figure Sydney. He spends his days working on simulations that, unknown to him, will be used for immoral purposes. Once he discovers this, he escapes and goes on the run, all the while helping the weak and abused while delivering his own kind of justice. He also spends his time trying to track down his family. He is pursued by Miss Parker, a childhood friend in the Centre and daughter of Mr Parker, chairman of the Centre. Sydney and computer genius Broots make up the the rest of the team sent to bring Jarod back.
I have to admit I was kind of excited that Steve and Craig were bringing the Pretender back in book form as I really do love to read. TV show/movie would have been my first choice as I need Andrea Parker and Michael T. Weiss in my life and they essentially bought the characters to life for me but a book was my second choice. I downloaded a copy straight to my kindle and started reading as soon as it was available.
I was a little disappointed that the book didn't follow on from IOTH as I NEED answers and MP and J were finally getting somewhere. Kinda. I also did not like the 'kind of' retelling of the pilot episode. I mean, had it been a retelling of the pilot episode as it was in the show with additional scenes we did not get to see I would have been over the moon. Changing the pilot makes it seem as if the whole series did not happen. Miss Parker knew about SL-27, something she did not learn about until later on in the series and Broots and Mr Raines were both missing from this novel. I feel like the character of Broots has been replaced with the character of Cornelius and I do not like this new character at all! Broots is essential in my eyes and needs to be in the Pretender. I did however like the other new characters that were added.
What I really did like about this novel was seeing inside the thoughts of the characters. Something that is not possible in a TV show/movie. I know a lot of fans did not like the chapter that was written from the point of view of a rat but I honestly really liked it. Why? Because I liked the idea of Jarod having company and not being completely alone, even if his company was just a tiny rat and honestly who doesn't want to know what a rat is thinking? Maybe just me...
I liked how the book starts off with a couple of terrorists talking and you wonder if you are actually reading the right book but then it completely changes locations and you are deep in Pretender territory thinking Jarod is up to something when in reality his story is going in a completely different direction that starts to tie up towards the end. The book leaves you hanging and wondering how Jarod will set-up the wrong-doers. If you don't like suspense then maybe wait til 'Saving Luke' (the second novel) comes out before you begin Rebirth. Personally I think suspense is half the fun. I really enjoyed the chapters with Miss Parker and her mom and I liked that there is more to Sydney than anyone realized. I'm looking forward to seeing these explored more in future books.
The title Rebirth is essentially what this book is. A rebirth of the Pretender but not as you once remembered. I enjoyed this novel for what it was but I feel like it takes away from the original and does not leave the door open for Michael T. Weiss and Andrea Parker to ever reprise their roles which is essentially the closure I, and most likely other Pretender fans, need. If this novel was written after there was an ending featuring MTW and AP, I think I would have enjoyed it more because I would feel like the show I loved was being reborn and could live on forever, which I believe is what Steve and Craig were aiming for with this novel, but I think an ending would have been better first.
I did also notice that Steve and Craig seem to have an obsession with eyes. Half their characters have some kind of eye ailment/distinguishing feature. Violet eyes, glass eyes, heterochromia. Thinking back to the show, Broots seemed to have a lot of friends that worked in the Centre with eye ailments too, lazy eyes, bung eyes...even Sydney went blind there for a few episodes. Yep definite obsession. The only other person I know who is that obsessed with eyes is my boss who is an ophthalmologist. (Note to self: Buy Rebirth for the boss for Christmas). I'm pretty sure Steve and Craig were ophthalmologists in a past life. I love their obsession with eyes though. The eyes are the windows to the soul. Maybe something Jarod could explore in one of his pretends.
This book is probably one of the hardest I will ever review as I'm so undecided about what I thought. I really enjoyed it but I was also disappointed. If you're not a previous Pretender fan then you will definitely enjoy it and should give it a go, and if you are a Pretender fan then you will most likely have mixed feelings like I do but you should definitely give it a go too. It will suck you back into the magic that is the Pretender and leave you with more questions asked and unanswered, but then it wouldn't be the Pretender if we didn't question everything.
Will I be running to buy 'Saving Luke'? Usain Bolt couldn't catch me!