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What Lies Between, by Peter David
Genre: Superhero
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 2007
Review Posted: 1/25/2008
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

What Lies Between, by Peter David

Book Review by David Roy

Have you read this book?

I'm normally a Peter David fan, but his last book ("Before Dishonor") really left me cold. Unfortunately, his Fantastic Four book (What Lies Between) didn't do any better of a job of warming me up. While David's prose and characterization are highlights once again, he packs the book with too many annoyances and the plot just didn't translate well from a comic book format to a novel.

Reed Richards, one of the greatest scientific minds in world, is asked to consult on a privately funded dimension-hopping device that will allow those who can pay for it to visit other dimensions. Reed, having a lot of experience with this sort of thing, knows that it's too dangerous but is willing to at least take a look. The creator of the device, Dr. Rachel Hunt (a looker who quickly attracts the attention of Johnny Storm), is impatient to begin and thinks Reed is nothing but a meddler. But when she goes against Reed's wishes and activates the device, what she unleashes might be just enough to destroy the entire world.

I'll get one of my major annoyances out of the way first, because it's quick. I'm not a big fan of in-jokes, though a good one will make me chuckle. David includes not one, but two in-jokes inside What Lies Between regarding the recent Fantastic Four movies. After the second one, I almost tore the book in half. David has often walked the line between good humor and silly humor, and this time he crossed over it too many times. Thankfully, these two seem to be the only instances where David gave into this urge, which makes them all the more galling. Though I'm sure there were more in there that I just missed.

That was the annoying part, but the disappointing part of What Lies Between is the plot. It involves one of Marvel Comics more cosmic villains (I won't reveal who, for spoiler purposes) and the details of all these different zones (the Negative Zone and some of the other alternate realities that the Fantastic Four have visited) just don't carry over well enough into a novel format. David tries hard, with vivid descriptions of the cosmic energies being unleashed, the magical power of the villain being used against our heroes, but it just didn't feel right. Not to mention that the resolution of the plot can be seen a mile away, another failing that David doesn't usually have. As soon as we see two bickering villains, we know that something's going to happen.

Another problem is the superfluous sub-plots that don't really go anywhere and aren't that interesting. Sue is given an offer by the President of the United States, and she spends a good deal of her time on the page considering it and trying to talk it over with Reed, but the answer should really be obvious from the beginning and didn't grab me as a reader. Ben finding a woman who's uglier than him and having to face his own prejudices is a bit better, but again just seems thrown in there to give him something to do.

On the good side, however, What Lies Between has the typical David characterization strengths, with the regulars vividly depicted in much the same way as the comics. I enjoyed reading about these people, and David does a good job with them (as he should, since he's also a comic book writer). His dialogue is crisp and enjoyable, with the banter between the regulars superbly done. Some of the dialogue for Mandy O'Hare (Ben's girlfriend) is a bit trite, but overall it's not bad. Even the stuff between the two villains is pretty good. Characterization and dialogue has always been David's strong suit, and they're put on display in this novel.

I said in my review of Christopher L. Bennett's "Watchers on the Walls" that I thought superhero fighting didn't really translate well to the novel format. I still believe that, but David describes the fight scenes well enough that they can be followed and they didn't seem too over the top. Fantastic Four doesn't have the quantity of fighters problem that the X-Men do, so maybe it's because it was on a smaller scale, but these scenes were actually kind of exciting this time around. I think it probably helps that David is a comic book writer, though, because he knows how to set up a battle. It's also nice that there really aren't any until the end, making the conclusion much more exciting because the rest of the book hasn't been fight-filled.

Overall, What Lies Between isn't a bad book, and I certainly didn't feel like I had wasted my time. I was just disappointed in it, and that could very well be because David usually does better. That's two clunkers in a row now, though, and I hope he regroups. I want to enjoy one of my favorite writers again
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