What I’m NOT Reading: The Sin Collector

I actually paid for this, and that’s something I deeply regret. I finished it, too.

Here’s the book description:

“The Sin Collector” follows the life of Liliana, a born Sin Collector. She has spent over 100 years absorbing people’s sins so they may rest in peace come death. However when she meets another Collector, one who insists everything she has been taught is a lie, Liliana must make her way from sunny L.A. all the way to the streets of Madrid. Searching for answers to a question we all share. Why are we here? The friends and enemies she makes along the way only seem to blur the line between right and wrong. Can Liliana fight the Castus, an organization whose sole mission is to kill every Collector? Should she trust her head or her heart when the two most important men in her life are fighting alongside her?
Then there is the worst question of all, who will be left when the dust settles?

I finished this out of sheer stubbornness. Here are the problems I had with it.

1.Characters’ responses to their emotions make no sense. For example, when Lily meets Billy (o_O), a Collector she’d grown up with, he gets kinda pushy and insulting when he’s at her apartment. So she kicks him out  storms out of her own apartment to show how mad she is. Nothing happens while she’s gone either; it’s an interlude that doesn’t push forward the plot in any meaningful way.

2. Every Collector is surprisingly tall and good looking for people who are centuries’ old. I really feel like they should all be shorter. Also, some of the problems Lily faces with blending in with normal humans would be easily solved with make-up. Eventually people notice that she doesn’t age, and then she has to move on to another job/home. It seems like her training as a Collector should have included the basics of disguising oneself as mortal. (Also, where are they getting their IDs/paperwork for their new lives?)

3. Characterization is cursory, at best. Characters’ maturity, motivations, and emotions shift clause-to-clause, for no apparent reason.

4. I know it’s fantasy, but goddamn this is a story seeped in whiteness. In an especially obnoxious scene, the narrator refuses to read a young girl To Kill a Mockingbird as a bedtime story, and instead reads her a fairy tale.

“Once Upon A Time” I began. We made it through three stories before she was in a deep sleep. In the end, she probably didn’t have a better grasp on our legal system, racism, or social complexity. However, she now knew that sometimes the most loyal friend you could have was a mouse….It wasn’t in her lesson plan, and maybe it wasn’t all true, but it was important.

…More important than the lessons and emotional significance of an age-appropriate classic piece of literature initially read to her by a long-term father-figure and friend of her dead older sister? The girl being read to is twelve. She’s old enough to hear about racism, and the importance of mockingbird-like figures whose innocence makes them vulnerable, and is borderline too old to be regularly read bedtime stories.

Whatever, whatever, fine. These are large-scale quibbles that, I think, are specific to the genre. I mean, Anita Blake somehow has a full-time job an an animator, is a US Marshall, and has enough spare time to go jogging with a girl friend   hate on blondes everywhere while having sex with two vampires, a pack of weres, and some soap. Plus, Anita’s mixed race identity only comes up when it’s time for angst, so, you know, maybe race!fail is just part of the genre. In this case, though, it’s really the piss-poor editing that got me. Here’s the sentence that broke my brain:

Caught in the trance that was my own reflection, Valentine jumped up on the sink, breaking my concentration.

We’re 9% in. This is the first of many, many misplaced modifying clauses . The cat isn’t caught in a trance. The narrator is. Clause order is important, y’all. So are commas!

Comments

  1. Fraser says

    The To Kill a Mockingbird thing is … stupid. For all the reasons you said. Almost condescending, as if the reader couldn’t possibly like TKAM and so will get the point.
    And ye gods, that is a dreadful clause placement.

  2. SarahSyna says

    I could see the whole not-reading-TKAM thing if A) it was a case of wanting to let her be innocent and believe the world is a good, just place for just a while longer and B) the child was younger.

    If the character collects sins then they probably know how bad people can be, and I can definitely see someone like that wanting to keep people they love as innocent and ‘sinless’ for as long as they can.

    But twelve is too old for that. To give an anecdotal example; when I was twelve, I wrote a poem about racism despite never seeing it firsthand and I included an MSpaint illustration of a person who was half white male, half black female. My justification? ‘Because it’s showing the ones who are really lucky and black women who are at the lowest.’ I was incredibly sheltered, and even I knew about that crap. There’s no way this kid has somehow never run into a racist message.

  3. Fraser says

    SarahSyna,

    The thing is, though, it’s not just about racism. It’s a wonderful story about growing up in a specific time and place and race is only part of it. Not that it isn’t an important part, but TKAB is much more than a “message” novel or a polemic. I’d have more respect for Sin Collector if it acknowledged that.

  4. Maria says

    Fraser,

    Pretty much. I’d argue that it’s an important read because the Collectors are immortal, and part of what TKAM talks about are “truths” about human nature.

    It’s just a very weird scene.

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