While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

While Justice SleepsWhile Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Abrams has presented us with another example of a killer of a plot concept ruined by horrible writing. In addition, her poor choice of a reader sunk the book even farther. The reader’s normal narrator voice was fine, but when she was reading dialog she failed miserably. The lead character, a twenty-something Supreme Court law clerk, sounded like a frightened ten-year-old. All the male characters sounded identical, making it hard to distinguish who was talking, and all sounded like B-film thugs.

The great concept is that a U.S. Supreme Court Justice falls into a coma just before a major split-decision vote is to be cast and his clerk, Avery, is given his legal guardianship, i.e. the power over whether he is to live or die. Evil entities want him to die to block the upcoming vote. Avery is faced with difficult decisions and is bullied and threatened by dark and mysterious forces. She is also left with puzzles to solve by the justice who clearly anticipated such a scenario and expected her to succeed. Great plot idea.

But then there’s the horrible writing. Abrams apparently has never met an adverb she doesn’t love to overuse. She turns nouns into verbs or adjectives. “The porch was sturdied by …”, “over the clayed ground.” She must have scoured her thesaurus for every obscure 10- or 12-letter synonym to replace common words in her first draft. Here’s one of her more appalling and hilarious attempts at erudition:

As it was, a permanent case of nausea jitterbugged with nerve-searing apprehension which metastasized into unadulterated panic. Pundits raptured at President Stokes’s capacity to infuse the recitation of a name with an intimacy that’s left the listener with a certainty of her unique place in the world. … That ability translated itself into throngs of voters who failed to heed the clarion calls from a bewildered press dutifully chronicling misdeeds.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag. How could an editor let that go by?

Yet another mystifying question is why she chose to portray the federal government as almost completely corrupt and evil. It is books like this that feed the deep state conspiracy theories of the far right groups she so famously opposes in her real life as a political activist. Which side is she on?

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