Friday, February 27, 2009

(not) James Patterson's SAIL

February is almost over and I'm starting to come out of my self-imposed mourning/quiet period. I don't recall doing a book review here before, so maybe it's time to do one.

I'm generally a fan of James Patterson's writing. I even borrowed his protagonist Alex Cross for a post once. This past Summer he (or someone) wrote Sail, generally reviewed as a great beach read, summer fun, etc. And besides, it's about sailing. I didn't read it this past Summer when it came out because I was out sailing. So I wanted to get my hands on it and have a nice trip with an author I like. I should have known better.

Notice that it's in collaboration with another writer. Shoulda known. How often are collaborations done well? Most of the time they're unreadable. It is my fondest hope for this book that Mr. Patterson let this Roughan cretin simply borrow his name for sales power and that Mr. Patterson himself had nothing to do with this turd. If he actually wrote some of it... well, ick!

'Cuz that's what this book is, a big, fat, stinking turd which just sits there and smells up the house. Blech!

I won't even criticize the plot and characters. Remember that story you wrote one day when you were bored in the back of your high school English class, with the barely-two-dimensional characters, banally simplistic plot, and one hyperbolic action scene after another, with preternatural antics by the protagonist(s) and almost-supernatually-evil nemeses? That story was better than Sail.

So, I'm not even gonna go there. I'm simply gonna criticize their fact-checking. Seems to me that if you're a big, important blockbuster, best-seller author, you could afford to spend a coupla bucks to have somebody with some expertise fact-check your basic elements. Heck! I'll bet James Patterson even knows some sailors and private pilots he could have asked to do it for free as a favor to him.

Too late now.

Maybe nonsailors and nonpilots can overlook stuff that makes no sense because they have no experience with the actuality. I dunno. But for me, as a sailor and pilot, every time I read some utterly nonsensical passage, I ground my teeth til the gums bled and my blood pressure spiked into dangerous territory.

They're wealthy (Of course! Am I the only class-warfare-conscious consumer who's tired of reading about people with more money than God?) and have this huge yacht (60ish feet IIRC) but they have no autohelm. They're hand steering on a week-long passage. Those of you who've hand-steered around the clock for multiple days know what I'm talking about. (Ronnie, raise your hand, babycakes! And Bob, hand-steering for an hour in a squall pretty much takes it out of you, huh?) And everybody nowadays has an autohelm, not just 60-foot luxury yachts. But they don't.

When they blow a water line, one of the heroes "fixes" it by stuffing it with all of his clothes. First, even on cheap sailboats, water feeds come through the hull through a seacock, which has a handle which can be TURNED OFF with a simple motion, just like turning the faucet handles on your bathroom sink. Second, even granting that the seacock is broken or frozen or something, the biggest of them for an engine feed would still be just a couple of inches in diameter. Your T-shirt would fill it. Your jeans would be far too much material to fit into the hose diameter. But requiring all his clothes for the "repair" does allow this character to appear nude in the follow-up scene.

This same protagonist is the super-duper sailing expert with years of experience. Therefore, he naturally waits until the storm, which they didn't see coming (SOMEHOW!), is upon them before he attaches the safety jacklines and teaches the crew about harnesses while getting them into said harnesses. The same crew which has owned this boat for years and gone on several trips on it. For you nonsailors, jacklines go on before you leave port and any sensible captain does any necessary crew instruction then, too, BEFORE the fertilizer hits the ventilator.

Also, at this juncture, they're unable to pull up their sea anchor! Now, I don't remember reading about them deploying a sea anchor and a sea anchor is something you deploy because of a storm, not something you just have overboard for the fun of it while you're sailing, trying to get somewhere. They kinda slow you down; that's their purpose. But these dildoes have it overboard while they're sailing and want to retrieve it when the storm comes. Idiotic writing.

And the stupidity just keeps on.

I'm probably boring you but one more painful item. One of the bad guys is gonna go chase them in a twin engine amphibian aircraft. He has an engine failure while flying and attempts to correct the resulting instability by wildly and aggressively wailing on the stick which is resisting him mightily. Really? Hint: you ain't gonna fix things by simply wiggling the stick. (Hell, here's a ONE-MINUTE YouTube video of the twin-engine engine-out procedure. Are you listening, Mister Patterson, or whoever? You couldn't be bothered to even Google for it? I didn't notice Mr. King in the video having to fight the stick with every ounce of his massive upper-body strength, which doesn't look to be as significant as that of the character in the book.) Subsequently, he goes into a spin and corrects it by pulling back on the stick. Again, this is not a correct, or useful, action. Ack! In actuality, he'd crash if he did this. Of course, if it were reality, he'd be licensed and trained in recovery procedures and he'd do it correctly. (Hint: Google the acronym PARE.)

Yes! I could go on and on; but mercifully I'll stop.

This book sucked the big, hairy one. Don't bother.

P.S. Mr. Patterson, you have a long way to go to redeem youself before I spend any more of my hard-earned money on your work (or nonwork) after this fiasco.


  1. Hmm. Well, Frank, clearly not *everybody* has autohelm or I wouldn't have spent all those hours hand-steering. But then, we don't have more money than God.

    (Unless "God" is a concept rather than a being. Then we have more money than God. :->)

    I, too, hate it when authors (1) sell their names to give third-rate hacks a shot at the NYT list, and (2) get easily verifiable factoids wrong, thereby destroying the credibility of their stories and characters. Sailing and SCUBA are two areas where people seem to get it wrong at least half the time. For example, Nora Roberts once wrote that the sails on the boat were beginning to "reef" when what she meant was "luff." It's really basic sailing lingo, Nora. Google is your friend. The book this mistake is in is one of my favorites, and I've reread it several times, so I guess it's not a fatal flaw. But it is irritating and extremely distracting. Every time.

  2. Oh Gawd! It's a good thing these characters didn't go SCUBA diving. Imagine how inaccurate THAT would have been!

    And we had an autohelm unit on the ZP; it was just broken. (VBG!)

  3. imagine the added cursing at your house if they drove around in Mister 2's!!!