Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tube Steak Meets Reading Rainbow: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Right off the bat, I'll admit that reading Heat Wave is probably the nerdiest thing I've done as an adult*.

*Well, I did make shirts for the third time I went to see Next in the theaters, but that was an act entirely motivated by comedy derived from making t-shirts for a seldom-seen movie that we went to see in a bargain theater in Round Rock**.

**For those unfamiliar with the Austin area, there isn't really a bunch of suburbs, per se. Austin can basically annex land as it sees fit and just keeps growing out. As such there are just a handful of suburbs. Round Rock is one of them. And it sucks.

Now many of you may need an explanation as to what makes this so nerdy. After all, without any prior knowledge as to what this is, it may seem like I was simply reading a normal book with a slightly lame title.

Oh, let me assure you, it is not that simple.

You see, ABC has taken to having characters in its shows write books. Then, when the books in their shows are released, that same book from the show appears on book shelves across America. Written by the character in the show. Now this is mostly employed by the ABC soaps, but the series "Castle" is predicated upon the premise of a smarmy, cocksure crime novelist following a sexy NYPD detective around for source material for his new series of novels. I guess it stands to reason that if ABC releases novels by its "authors" in other series then Richard Castle would be no different.

Now, I may not have physically purchased the book (it was a gift), but I certainly did read it. And I read it within a couple of weeks of receiving it.

I can safely say that this was one of the odder reading experiences I've had. When I was a nerdier teenager*, I read "Star Trek: The Next Generation" novels (yes, plural) and at least one Star Wars novel, so I am no stranger to what is essentially authorized fanfic. This, however, is constantly referenced in the series. It is a fictionalized story based on the lives of characters in a TV show written in the voice of one of those characters by a real but nameless author. I mean seriously, what the fuck?

*Oh, trust me, this was both possible and true.

Anyway, despite the one long in-joke that this inevitably must turn into, I actually like to read detective novels for a light, change-of-pace reading, so this is up my alley in that regard. And, as has been sort of established but could probably use reiteration, I am a fan of "Castle." My initial concerns were quickly alleviated as Stana Katic began to hold her own opposite Nathan Fillion. So I had tempered hopes for Heat Wave.

For what it was, the novel worked. There were times when I was embarrassed to be reading it (and I read a lot of books, both fictional and non- about baseball), but there were also times when laughed thinking about the smirk that Fillion's Castle must've had on his face while writing a passage. This is an odd thought to have while reading a novel to be sure, but it wasn't necessarily unpleasant. Sure, the novel wasn't high art, but it isn't trying to be. At times, it may be a bit clunky, and it plays things understandably safe--never erring into anything past steamy--but the read is fun. The level of meta-reflexivity that this novel resides within is certainly an interesting one, although its appeal is somewhat narrow. Not narrow enough to keep the novel outside of the New York Times Best Seller list's Top 10 (#6), but there is obviously a very limited amount of potential readership out there.

I guess whether or not you want to read this boils down to how much you like the show. I watch every episode. I was given the book. I read it quickly after receiving it, so while I wasn't willing to buy it, I was certainly eager to read it. Maybe this is the last bastion of self-consciousness for me. I still am not sure that I would read the second "Castle" book in public, but I'd likely read it in the privacy of my own home and would possibly even spend my own hard-earned money on it.

At the very least, I am now in on the inside-joke about the sex scene in the novel within the series.

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