Monday, June 3, 2019

Review of Jimmy Olsen's "Scuba"

Legal Disclosure: I was given a free copy in order to write this review. I was not paid.

Jimmy Olsen, Scuba (Hoffman House Press, 2017) 387 pages, fiction, $24.95 USD.

"Scuba": the title and the cover suggest this book is an epic ride. The truth is, it's a bit phrenetic.

This book reads like an action movie. Events move quickly and the characters are not particularly likable (women, in particular, are not treated well).  This book is a wheel that spins faster and faster until it comes off the axel. Its plot is not entirely believable; it feels exaggerated. It is interesting but overstuffed. There are shipwreck discoveries, political riots, unresolved relationships, and the specter of childhood trauma. Anyone one of those would have made a fascinating read if fully developed, but this book has them all - and the climax is over the top. All of these faults are actually positives in the medium of film. However, books are usually expected to be more meditative, descriptive, and delving.

That being said, Olsen excels when his characters are underwater. Everything slows down and the descriptions become sharp, clear, sublime, and inviting. The reader can feel him/herself rocked in the power of underwater surges, see the otherworldly beauty of coral, and interact with various sea creatures. This is where the book achieves that magic of language one expects to find and when one feels anchored to poetic reality.

If you're looking for a leisurely read for a day at the beach or a cross-country flight, this is your book. It is light, easy to read, and a page-turner with plenty of action. While it is not deep, it is entertaining.

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