In celebration of a good novel: Kathy Reichs vs. Bones

Actor Emily Deschanel and author Kathy Reichs on the set of Bones (image courtesy Fox)

I just checked out Bones Are Forever, by Kathy Reichs, from the library and realized it had been a long time since I felt that pull of a well-written novel. I found myself seeking out excuses to slip away to read, and I carried the book around with me in hopes odd respites would present themselves and need to be filled with a good book.

The TV show Bones, based on Reichs' work, is so goofily overwritten that it's astonishing it came out of the Temperance Brennan novels. I even like Bones, but it's so cringe-inducing for how two-dimensional the characters are and how painfully obvious each emotional revelation becomes.

It was refreshing to dive back into the original world of Tempe and enjoy Kathy Reichs' dry, exhaustively detailed, but fascinating peeks into the world of forensic anthropology — with some shootouts and kidnappings along for the thrills, of course.

If you've never read the books but have seen the show, you'll be surprised if you pick one up (I hope pleasantly). If you've read the books but have never seen the show, it might be best left so.

I'm not really sure why they bothered to "base" the show on the novels since they changed every interesting detail. One of the major characters in the novels is not a person at all but a place — two places, in fact: Montreal, Quebec; and Charlotte, North Carolina; home bases between which Dr. Brennan splits her time and expertise. So Bones decided to bore it up a little by setting the show in Washington, D.C. Mm-hmm. Apparently two locales given little to no screen time ever were just too quirky for television.

And then there's the fact that Kathy Reichs and Temperance Brennan, her fictional counterpart, are not in fact robotic hyper-logical Vulcans who can't understand the barest nuances of human behavior. But a fully fleshed female scientist I guess would be too subtle for an American TV audience?

And there's no one law-enforcement sidekick in the novels à la Booth. There are several, and one highly memorable one (ah, le Ryan). And there are no goofy interns and coworkers, just … again … fellow professionals.

And the labs in the book are the kind that look institutional and are located in basements and smell kind of funny and are completely dull. I have to give props to the show for making up a much cooler set than any forensic anthropologist has ever been privileged to use.

I learn so much when I read the Kathy Reichs novels. To the absurd point where I feel like I could help identify whether human remains are male or female and what approximate age. This is not true at all, and I will never be called upon, but I get so excited when I learn another arcane piece of forensic anthropological trivia, like that scooped incisors suggest a Native American or East Asian heritage. Cool! Not useful to my daily life!

When I watch the TV show, I learn … that I need to keep being skeptical. I never know how much they're BSing. Like … the Angelator. Ha ha ha!

This post took on a highly unexpected turn. For one thing, I actually like the TV show, and I'm not a books-are-always-superior snob; I just think Bones is sort of silly in comparison. All I really wanted to say was I enjoyed reading a skillfully written novel, and that was about it. Reading it brought into clear focus how much I had not been enjoying the novel I was previously reading, which was taking me months to finish. I believe novels should be of the can't-put-down variety or why bother? Life is short. Read a good book. Skip the bad ones.

That should be on a Pinterest pin.

Read happy.

You're welcome.

Here are two possible responses to this post:
(1) Tell me a recent GOOD BOOK you read that you couldn't put down. Or tell me how much you want to read one like that. Aren't they awesome? Woo!
(2) Tell me how much you agree or disagree with my assessment and comparison of the Kathy Reichs novels and Bones. I can take it.


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