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the Complete Review
the complete review - tv / anthology

Neptune Noir

edited by
Rob Thomas

general information | our review | links

To purchase Neptune Noir

Title: Neptune Noir
Authors: various
Genre: Anthology
Written: 2007
Length: 212 pages
Availability: Neptune Noir - US
Neptune Noir - UK
Neptune Noir - Canada
Neptune Noir - India
Veronica Mars on DVD: The Complete First Season - US
. The Complete Second Season - US
. The Complete Third Season - US
  • Unauthorized Investigations into Veronica Mars
  • Edited by Rob Thomas

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Our Assessment:

B : a variety of angles, fairly well covered

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Neptune Noir collects eighteen essays about the Veronica Mars-television series . As in the other volumes in the Smart Pop-series, the publishers go to great lengths to emphasise that the book is: 'Completely Unauthorized'. There's even a disclaimer in all capital letters on the copyright page:

       In this case, that doesn't seem strictly true, as the collection is edited by Veronica Mars-creator Rob Thomas, who also introduces the collection and, particularly usefully, offers a brief comment along with each of the essays (and an occasional editor's (foot)note in the essays themselves). This -- which works, in some (small) ways, as a response to the essays, too -- definitely adds another dimension to the book, and limited though the give and take is does provide useful added insights.
       The essays cover considerable ground, though there are a few specific spots that many of them choose to tread over (and over). Many focus on Veronica Mars as a contemporary 'noir'; Lani Diane Rich's 'Welcome to Camp Noir' -- the opening essay -- runs down the major characters and suggests to what extent they are noir and to what extent they are 'camp' (Veronica: 80/20, the Echolls family 0/100, etc.) -- and while her breakdown is debatable, it at least serves as a good introductory piece. Amanda Ann Klein's look at 'The Noir of Neptune' focusses on noir history and tropes, and how the television show effectively uses these.
       Lawless Neptune (as Alafair Burke also titles her contribution) also figures prominently, a place where authority figures are not to be trusted or relied upon (and they didn't even cover the third season, which provides even more fodder ...). Many make mention of Sheriff Lamb's reaction when Veronica reports being raped to him -- obviously one of the major turning points in turning Veronica Mars into who she is. The general moral ambiguity in the show is also widely remarked upon, notably Veronica's own propensity to lie and deceive (and not just where necessary). The solid (if at times tested) father-daughter relationship is also discussed in various pieces, Joyce Millman going so far as to write (in 'Daddy's Girl') that: "Veronica Mars is the love story of a father and daughter, and any teen romance pales in comparison". (Good-guy Wallace is the one character most seem to have difficulty fitting into the scheme of things, so he is one of the elements of the show that is left a bit on the wayside.)
       Among the more creative takes is Lawrence Watt-Evans' look at "Automotive symbolism on Veronica Mars" (in 'I'm in love with my car') -- he has a point, and he does a pretty good job of it. Deanna Carlyle's 'The United States of Veronica' looks at "Teen noir as America's new Zeitgeist" -- debatable, too, but an interesting idea.
       Samantha Bornemann's 'Innocence Lost' sees Veronica Mars as "The third wave of teen drama" -- following on My So-Called Life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- but unfortunately doesn't emphasise enough how her reading is specific to her generation. A college graduate in 1998, these are the shows she grew up (and, even in her twenties, is still growing up) with, the shows of her generation (and, indeed, it might be more interesting to have asked why reliving the teenage experience as depicted on Veronica Mars appeals to twenty-something viewers so much ...), and it ignores the waves (and waves and waves) of earlier teen drama. The progression she points to is valid, but the piece would have been considerably more interesting (and convincing) if she had couched it more in terms of personal/generational experience (or, in the alternative, compared it to previous waves of the depiction of teen girls on TV).
       Neptune Noir is a solid collection of essays, all written by viewers who are obviously devoted to and very knowledgeable about the Veronica Mars-series. The variety and generally careful exposition even make the volume useful as an introduction for someone who possibly 'doesn't get' or hasn't closely followed the series. Fans likely will also enjoy some of the ideas spun out here -- and Rob Thomas' contributions certainly make it seem even more of an insider-look at the series.

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