I really love techno-thrillers, even when I don’t understand all the science.
Wait, let me back up a moment. I really love good techno-thrillers, even when I don’t understand all the science. The trouble is, there are a lot of so-so or even bad techno-thrillers out there. As I touched on in today’s review of James Rollins’s Black Order:
A truly good techno-thriller requires three things to be a good book as well: interesting, compelling characters; an author who not only knows his science but knows how to communicate it effectively, clearly, simply, and interestingly; and, finally, the same things any other thriller needs: tight writing, good pacing, and a complex, fascinating plot. It’s easy enough to find a techno-thriller that does one of these, and not too hard to find one that does two of them, but very difficult to find one that does all three well.
For instance, Michael Crichton books, I find, tend to do well on the science and pacing ends, but the characters rarely interest me or hold my attention. Many folks don’t care about characterization as long as the pacing holds their attention, and I think that’s part of why Crichton books do so well. Characterization tends to be important, however, to folks who are students of good writing, and characterization is one of the reasons I enjoyed Black Order so much. Sure, it’s the plot and pacing that really have to hold your attention, but characterization can get you wrapped up in and caring about that plot in ways that other things can’t. I was particularly impressed with Rollins’s ability to draw a character in with the barest of introductions, making each one into someone the reader could care about without having to derail the pace of the book despite a large cast of characters. If that’s a skill you’re looking to pick up as a writer, I recommend reading Rollins’s Black Order to study how he does it.
Edit: Apropos of nothing, if you’re in my rough age group, you might want to check out Wil Wheaton’s Stand by Me memories. That movie came out at the right time to be one of those formative movies whose scenes I can never quite forget.