Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

"All right, Veronica. Time to schmooze."

I’ve always been wary of the term “canon”. It’s a word thrown around to grab the attention of desperate fans who will grasp at any bit of hope that characters they loved could live on in a new format. Personally, I never place too much weight in future continuations of TV series outside of the on-screen setup. Those Buffy comics basically tore apart the tone of the series, with Joss himself even admitting to initially getting carried away by the removal of budget constraints and casting choices. So when a series of Veronica Mars novels were announced, I was hesitant about it. Even though we were promised that they wouldn’t negate, or be negated by, any future films, I wasn’t sure if the ideas should be wasted on paper [movie spoilers].

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the novel actually turned out. Naturally, Veronica Mars works best on-screen, but there were a few ideas that this book could accomplish that, voice-overs aside, the series or movie couldn’t, chief among these being what goes on in Veronica’s mind. Even in those times of tense action, when you see Veronica struggle to escape the clutches of a bad guy, or outwit brainless criminals, you always wonder how she forms these ideas, and the insight into her decisions and motivations was exciting. Even more so, it was fascinating to understand how a person’s ticks and body language are so important in Veronica determining more about who they really are, something that makes the second half of the novel even more appealing.

A few things don’t work, but just a few. The one thing I felt didn’t jump out at me as much as it did on-screen was the dialogue. At times I spotted the same wit that I loved in both the series and the movie, but every now and again it felt like a tad bit watered down. The decision not to narrate in the first person was also an odd one, since the series felt so much like it was told through Veronica’s eyes. This is made up for with a few cool moments of narration that feel right out of the old Ronnie playbook.

The story Rob Thomas concocted was what was originally in place for the feature film that had Veronica graduating from Hearst College. Unfortunately time went on and that concept made less sense and so the movie we saw was created instead, which was all about bringing Veronica back home after a long time away. The novel mystery, as a result, was stronger, at least in terms of layers and twists. The Bonnie DeVille murder was perfect given the themes of the movie, and where the characters were. The disappearances of these college girls would have had no real place in forcing Veronica to come back home, at least until they hit a little closer to home further on in the story.

That’s a major draw of this book, how personal it turns out to be. But it’s also a little disconcerting for me as a fan of the series who will never see the events that happened here impact the on-screen story, especially since they were kind of important both in terms of Veronica’s past, and her future.

And it’s not just Veronica herself that had important moments, since Keith has a big role to play here as well. The impact that the movie’s events had on him are explored in detail, as he struggles with Veronica’s decision to give up her job offer in New York and return to Neptune, and of course being a part of the accident that killed poor Deputy Sacks.

Depending on how you look at it, though, those could stand as reasons to enjoy ‘The Thousand Dollar Tan Line’ even more. It’s not just a throwaway tie in, it’s an important chapter in the Mars story, and my worries about the format the story took shouldn’t diminish the pros of it, and there are a lot.

Characters aren’t forgotten, with everyone from Mac to Weevil showing up at one point or another. Fangirls aren’t too happy about Logan’s miniscule appearances, but there wasn’t a place for him in this story. It was definitely Veronica and Keith heavy and considering how much I value their relationship, it was what made this story so great.

By the last chapter there’s a lot that’s changed, which I imagine will spill over into novel number two, or else there’s a risk we won’t get to see them play out. Given how annoyed fans were for years about Veronica’s story not getting proper resolution, it’d be a shame for something like this to face the same fate.

If you’re a fan of the series at all, and you enjoy a good mystery, then I really recommend giving the book a go. The writing style is simplistic, but works in this context, and the story is gripping enough to sit right alongside ones we saw on the show, and I’m already looking forward to the next chapter.

3.5 out of 5 spring breakers

Feel free to discuss the novel in the comments but watch out for spoilers!

Originally posted at PandaTV.

3 comments:

Vero said...

I finished reading the novel last week, and I have to say my impression was pretty much the same as yours, Panda. I enjoyed that each chapter was written like it could be a scene of a TV show or a movie, but I did miss the chemistry between the actors. I guess the characters didn't quite have the same chemistry in my head!

In any case, I'm also looking forward to the next book, and whatever may happen after that.

Luce said...

Thank you for the good review, Panda! I have no shame in admitting that I bought the book as soon as it became available. I've been a VM fan from way back and there was no way I wasn't going to buy it. *g*

Though I do understand some fans' disappointment that Logan (and, by extension, Logan/Veronica) isn't as prominent in the book as it could've been, I can't help but give props to the writers. After all, the movie doesn't quite address the fact that Veronica ended up doing exactly what Keith had wanted her NOT to do. It wouldn't have been credible to have a continuation to the movie without deal with the fallout from Veronica's decision.

I do find it a little odd that the book is not in first person POV. After all, that's a very detective story/mystery/noir "thing" to do.

It is because of this review that I'm going to bump this book to the top of my TBR pile. :)

ChrisB said...

I finished this book last night. I enjoyed it. The writing was good and the mystery was well plotted with a whodunnit that took me by surprise.

I agree that some of the events depicted are game changing and I would like to have seen them on the screen. Having said that, I'm glad I got to experience them in any way.

Great review, Panda.