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The Guardian: 02/08/09
One of my favorite horror films is The Sentinel and the book though flawed was also an enjoyable read for me. The Guardian, the sequel falls short of the first book in a number of ways.
A well written horror novel jumps into the plot either by setting the creepy tone or with some actual horrific event. The Guardian instead has a lengthy prologue spanning about fifteen years with characters whose relationship to the remainder of the novel doesn't become obvious until the book is almost over. This sort of exposition works best cinematically and perhaps coming off the production of The Sentinel Konvitz had that in mind. Unfortunately his opening scenes are confusing. In my notes I have a complaint about the many "false starts" to the novel.
Horror series and their box office franchise cousins often rely on reworking a set of motifs and plot devices to link all the books or films together into a larger oeuvre. Fans of a series especially will expect certain key elements in any novel or film claiming to be part of the series. The Guardian goes beyond the peppering of familiar elements and tries instead to retell the entire story but with the genders reversed. Apparently the sentinel switches from nun to priest everything there's a hand-off.
Next there's the Vatican. Dan Brown isn't the first by any means to drag the Vatican into the plot. I suppose if there's a gate that's keeping Hell shut they'd be interested but frankly the lengthy scenes of the brave priests felt tacked on. Their scenes are clearly there to raise the feeling of terror but they just didn't work for me.
The ultimate sour note for me though is the truth behind Faye and Ben Burdett's identities. The Sentinel of course has the two randy lesbians who try to corrupt the innocent (and frigid! Alison) so that she can't become the next guardian of the gate. So homophobia isn't anything new to the series but here it is taken too far. A husband and wife and their adopted son become the target of Chazen and his legions from Hell just because the wife is transgendered.
So the moral of the story is: if there is a scary priest or nun who is blind, deaf and paralyzed living on the top floor of the apartment building you plan to rent and you are either a) the opposite sex of said priest or nun or b) gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, then run for the hills and find a better apartment somewhere else! Also avoid apartment buildings owned the the local diocese as these might be poorly disguised hell mouths.