Gemini Drifter Book Review

Gemini Drifter Book Review
Gemini Drifter: Gemini Man Book 2 by JD Cowan

Matthew and Jason have returned to Earth, escaped the Great Sorcerer King, killed the woman who tricked them and destroyed a building in the process.

Now what?

Gemini Drifter, the second book in JD Cowan's Gemini Man series, presents our protagonists with more freedom than the last. In Gemini Warrior, the plot was driven almost entirely by outside events that Matthew and Jason simply found themselves swept up in. Now, they have choices. Do they lay low? Get out of town? Pretend like nothing happened? Listen to Jason's dreams?

And with choices come interpersonal conflict and indecision. At least in this case they do. The title of this book is aptly chosen, as nothing in Matthew and Jason's lives up to this point has prepared them for this. But now the time has come to either respond to the call to adventure or fade back into listless obscurity.

The Hero's Journey, the only story structure many writers know of

The phrase "call to adventure" is often used to mean a stage in Joseph Campbell's famous Hero's Journey. That isn't what I'm getting at here, and I regret the coincidence, as I think the Hero's Journey has become overused, the only story structure many writers have heard of.

Apocryphal ad for Ernest Shackleton's expedition

What I mean is something more like the fake ad you can easily find for Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic. It is the stirring in the breast of bored young men who want to go out in the world and prove to the world [and themselves] that they are worth something.

One of the ways in which the Hero's Journey goes wrong is that the need to prove yourself and the call to adventure is not just for Chosen Ones destined to be heroes, it is a nearly universal feature of male psychology, and often the call to adventure is partly motivated by boredom and a desire to make money.

I love that one of the sources of conflict between the almost twins who passed Shaula's test to put on the artifacts Castor and Pollux in the last book is that Jason is motivated by idealistic dreams of heroism, while Matthew is bored and wants money. In principle, these could be aligned, but in practice, it isn't so easy.

What Matthew and Jason need, and what our culture no longer consciously retains, is a rite of passage into manhood. So what is left is going off to do something dangerous and difficult and either succeed or die trying. But there is so much more here to make the book interesting.

The machinations of the Sorcerer King interact with the sordid realities of the world to create a shadow war where you can never quite tell what side anyone is on, or who might be setting you up. Matthew and Jason are way out of their league, but must press on regardless as new players enter the game with their own agendas.

The book also ends with a truly fantastic fight. Especially in the medium of film, superhero fights have become exchanges of titanic blows that are strangely consequence-free, up until the seemingly arbitrary point at which the victor is allowed to strike a decisive blow. My guess is this an interaction between an attempt to replicate the visual style of the comics with stipulations in some actors' contracts that they not lose a fight too badly. Unlike that, this fight feels like life or death is on the line from the very beginning, with consequences lurking in every split-second decision. It was fantastic.

It has now been four years since Gemini Warrior was first released. Gemini Drifter was going to be released right before Silver Empire went out of business. I don't know whether Cowan spent any of the intervening time polishing the text, but Drifter is definitely crisper than Warrior. That concluding fight scene is representative of how much better Cowan has become at making his ideas come through the page.

In much the same way, I've been honing my craft as well. Four years ago, I said that Gemini Warrior was "pulpy". Now, I wouldn't say that, but that is because I have much finer distinctions in mind. Pulp isn't a genre, but instead refers to the literary culture of a time when popular stories were printed on pulp paper and widely read; a time very different from what we have now.

That time was both more attuned to the interests of the audience and more literate than now, when many authors have no familiarity with anything older than five years ago. When I said that Gemini Warrior was pulpy, I meant that Cowan was consciously reaching back to the wonder story tradition of one hundred years ago. To a time that was less bound by literary conventions because it was more embedded in what had come before.

So you get more than just an adventure story here. You get a renewed link to a richer literary tradition. Plus some great superhero fights.

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