Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Small Thoughts on Big Books

So, while I flitter away at thinking about writing a couple of reviews that I’ve been sitting on for a while, here’s some quick hits on three books I recently finished. Sort of.

Judas Unchained: I rather like Peter F. Hamilton’s work. He writes these big, sprawling space opera / science fiction novels that span multiple worlds with big galactic threats. Judas Unchained is the second half of the story began in Pandora’s Star. It’s another fat 800+ page novel. Unlike his Night’s Dawn trilogy, the ending of Judas Unchained is more organic and believable than the disappointing conclusion of The Naked God. I half-wanted to dive right into Hamilton’s next trilogy, still set in this Commonwealth Universe, but I do need a break before I attempt to tackle another massive Hamiltonian text. Good stuff, but it takes a bit to get through.

Horns: Joe Hill’s second full length novel is another winner. Mark that down. Winner. Horns flips around in time a bit, and is something of a love story between Ig and Merrin, except we find out quite quickly that Merrin was brutally murdered and even though Ig didn’t do it, most folks think he did. Well, Ig grows these horns on his head which cause people to confess their darkest secrets and tell the nastiest truth. The opening is flat out entertaining as Ig’s family and some acquaintances spill the beans. By the end, it’s a dark and nasty tale that is also, as I’ve been told, a tragic love story. This has a shot to be on some Year’s Best lists at the end of the year. Here’s the deal: You see Joe Hill’s name, you’ll want to read it. The man is quality.

Pygmy: Sigh. And then there is Chuck Palahniuk. He had a very strong start to his career with Fight Club and Survivor, and even though things began to feel “samey” with Choke and Lullaby, Palahniuk was still a name to make me take notice. He was writing stuff that I just wasn’t seeing elsewhere. He’s losing me right now. Pygmy is written in this pidgin English dialect of an exchange student coming to America for the first time. Now, conceptually Pygmy has a damn good story that I’d really, really like to read. The exchange student is part of a cell planning a massive terrorist attack. This should be in Palahniuk’s wheel house. I just can’t get past the narration / dialect. The whole thing is told in that broken and misplaced style of English that you would expect from someone who has only barely and just learned the language. It’s rough going and, I checked, it doesn’t improve later in the novel. I know this part of the point, but I can’t get past it. I praised Jeff VanderMeer’s chopped sentences in Finch, but there was something of a rhythm to Finch. I can’t find the rhythm here. Pass.

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