Review: Supernatural: Nevermore

Supernatural: Nevermore by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Review by Paula R. Stiles

DeCandido, Keith R.A. Supernatural: Nevermore . New York: HarperEntertainment, 2007. 318pp. US $7.99/CAN $10.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-137090-8.

Don’t believe the snobs. Novelizations of television series and films can be just as good as any other literature (Paradise Lost is unabashed biblefic by a Lucifer fanboy, when it comes right down to it). By that token, they can be pretty bad, too.

The recipe to a good novelization, as far as I’ve been able to see, is that you either nail the show or film’s main characters in such a way that the reader learns new things about them and feels as if she/her were watching the film over again or a new episode, or you tell the reader a ripping, good tale that happens to star the show’s characters. Ripping and good enough that nobody notices that maybe the characters aren’t quite the way they are on screen. A truly classic tie-in novel usually gets both of these bullseyes.

And then there’s everyone else. Supernatural: Nevermore is the first of the three Supernatural novels out so far. So far, it’s also the weakest. The good news is that they do get better, though none of them are what you’d call great.

The novel suffers on both of the aforementioned fronts. Its biggest problem for the intended audience is that Sam and Dean really aren’t very much like the Sam and Dean of the show. DeCandido has said that he is a big fan, yet he makes basic errors like getting Dean’s eye color wrong (it’s green not blue. And no, green is not hazel, either. Hazel is brown). Sam is bossy and a walking exposition machine (more so than in the show). Dean comes across like a complete moron. A geeked-out-over-classic-rock moron. And Supernatural: Nevermore is set during a period in season two when Dean was dangerously out of his mind. You couldn’t tell that from this book, though. He’s dumb not insane in Nevermore.

This book still might have worked okay if there were a decent plot or side characters to distract us. There aren’t. The main plot involves somebody obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe who decides he can raise said uberfamous author via a ritual that (naturally) involves repeated, multiple human sacrifices. Instead of lots of blood, cue lots and lots and lots of needless description of New York City and anything to do with Poe, which would bore even one of his fans. This is not an exaggeration. I lent the book to Silvia, who is a big Poe fan, and she was bored to tears.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this description (the boys don’t even get a-hunting until after the first hundred pages), the brothers accidentally stumble on the solution to the Poe mystery, which turns out to be no more supernatural than most of Scooby-Doo’s cases (no fair!). Still, that’s not nearly as aggravating as the subplot about a murdered rock groupie haunting the place where Sam and Dean are staying. Sam and Dean literally forget to salt and burn her, even after they solve her murder and find her body (a mystery they also stumble their way through). Look, if you’re going to write a horror mystery, try putting the horror in as more than an afterthought.

It doesn’t help that the side characters are truly annoying in a way that indicates the author thought they were lots of fun to write. I get that you want to know a little bit about victims before they die, but not an entire chapter about two guys you will barely hear about thereafter. The stoner rocker with whom Sam and Dean stay worked a lot better when he was played by John Cusack and ran a record store. I’m a big fan of classic rock and I found the extended description of this guy’s huge vinyl collection tedious and unnecessary. Skip a bit, Brother, as Monty Python used to say.

Then there is Detective McBain, who is superclever, African-American, and condescending to the boys, who act like morons in her presence. As if we needed a politically-correct Bela Talbot. It doesn’t help that she calls Dean “brushy-top” constantly, for no apparent reason. And then there’s the cougar waitress who turns Dean down simply because he’s too charming (huh?).

In the author’s defense, his next novel, Bone Key, is better. Though it still suffers from a lot of the above problems, it’s a much faster and more entertaining read. For this one, though, try it mainly if you’re really into seeing the brothers working in Poe’s territory (and don’t mind the travelogue) or you’re a completist in terms of reading the tie-ins.

Interested in purchasing this book? Buy Supernatural: Nevermore from Amazon.com or purchase it from your local bookstore.

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