Rangergirl and the case of the snappy dialogue

I'm about a quarter of the way through Tim's novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, and so far I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

The enjoyment started with the cover, which is fabulous. I love the distressed-old-paperback-cover look, and the mix of Western with modern in the style and subject matter of the art, and most especially the Western font they put Tim's name in. Excellent.

And continuing the pulp theme, the first page of every chapter is printed in two columns, with a little icon like a cowboy hat or a horseshoe or a saddle between the columns at the top (with text wrapping around the icon)--it perfectly captures the look of certain old magazines. Very nicely done. Another good design decision was the choice to do that only on the first page of each chapter; two columns on every page would've been too much.

(Aside: I'm intrigued by how appealing I find pulp nostalgia. I don't actually like most of the kinds of stuff that appeared in the old pulps--I prefer my fiction to have some nuance and emotional depth. But something in me really responds to modern stuff that harks back to the pulps, whether parody, pastiche, or homage.)

Anyway, all that is the production and design, which says nothing about the content. (You know the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its production values.") Fortunately, I'm enjoying the content a great deal as well.

I'm liking the characters (I even have a certain amount of sympathy for the characters who look like they're going to be the villains, which is always nice); I'm liking the portrayal of Santa Cruz; I'm liking the metaphors; I'm liking the fact that it's a fast and smooth read; and most of all, I'm really enjoying the snappy dialogue.

The other night I watched The Chronicles of Riddick. I'll talk more about that on its own terms another time, perhaps, but for now I think it makes an interesting compare-and-contrast with Rangergirl (even though the two are entirely unrelated), in two areas:

First, as with the book, I loved the visuals/look/production design of the movie.

But, second, unlike in the book, the dialogue in the movie was mostly just clunky.

Oh, it tried to be snappy. The rhythm of the dialogue was the rhythm of snappy dialogue. Characters had retorts and comebacks and played off each other. But none of it was actually funny or smart or biting; it all just fell flat.

So after I finished watching the movie, vaguely dissatisfied, I picked up Rangergirl and started reading it, and immediately started smiling and nodding and even laughing.

I tried to spend some time thinking about what makes dialogue snappy, and why so many authors try it but don't manage it, and to what degree it's a matter of personal reader taste (I'm sure that not everyone would agree with me about dialogue is snappy and what isn't). But I was too sleepy at the time, and I haven't come to any conclusions since. I'd be curious to hear others' thoughts on the matter.

Anyway, really my main point in this entry is just to say, yay Tim!

On a side note, I'm tickled by Amazon's recommendation to buy Rangergirl with Stross's Accelerando. I mean, I like both of them, but I wouldn't have thought the core audiences for the two would have that much overlap.

4 Responses to “Rangergirl and the case of the snappy dialogue”

  1. Tim Pratt

    Wow, thanks, Jed! I’m glad you’re liking the book. I think you’ll like my next novel, Blood Engines, because it, too, has snappy dialogue — even more so. It’s all about finding characters with distinctive, enjoyable voices, for me… in Rangergirl, it’s Lindsay and Denis, who were great fun to write, and steal pretty much every scene in which they appear. The main protagonists of Blood Engines have a lot of wonderful, natural banter.

    I strive to write books with characters I’d like to hang out with. Even the villains…

  2. SarahP

    Jed, I loved Rangergirl, too, for a lot of the same reasons you did, and I thought the book was beautifully designed (if that’s the right term).

  3. A.K.

    Um, Jed–I just had a thought that is totally unconnected from this entry of yours. (Actually it is because you added that little bit at the bottom about where to send comments.) If people are commenting in your LJ, why not just turn off the comments option at LJ? It is something that can be disabled. 🙂 (And I like the new comments format here!

  4. Shmuel

    A.K.: not on syndicated feeds, it isn’t.

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