IT'S NOT LOOKING GOOD for fans of Veronica Mars. While the beloved TV show recently spawned a Kickstarter-funded movie, series creator Rob Thomas isn't done milking the franchise's fans: A new novel, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, picks up on the continuity established by the Veronica Mars movie, plunking Veronica back in Neptune as a private eye.
Yes, I said "continuity": Veronica Mars is entering the realm of long-lived licenses that test fan loyalty by extending the lifespans (and exploiting the revenue potential) of popular characters. Get ready to know the pains of being a nerd, marshmallows.
This would all be fine, except that the novel—written by Thomas and Jennifer Graham, and the first in a planned series—is terrible. The aggressive quippiness of the series doesn't translate so well to print, the plot is overcomplicated, and the prose is extraordinary clunky: "Veronica faked a smirk, then became serious" is an actual line that pretty much sums up the half-assed nature of the enterprise.
The closest cultural corollary to Veronica Mars is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a beloved TV show that lives on in the form of comics published by Dark Horse: It, too, is about an ass-kicking blonde fighting her demons in Southern California. But the Buffy comics have been generally well received, thanks to the careful guidance of Dark Horse Editor in Chief Scott Allie and series creator Joss Whedon, and they keep plugging away despite the fact that the show's final televised season, its seventh, ended in 2003.
It'll be interesting to see how far the loyalty of Veronica Mars fans extends: Will those who helped raise $5.7 million to crowdfund the movie shell out another $15.95 for an overpriced paperback? Will they continue to follow the franchise from medium to medium, hoping to recapture some of the magic of the show's near-perfect first season? I can't predict how long other fans will stick around; I was ready to bail by page four of the novel.
At least there's always Buffy: Season 10, in comic book form, launched last week.