Sunday, December 26, 2010

Duds on the Checklist

I only brought four books with me on our Christmas trip, which is not a lot for me.  But I've been taking other people's opinions to heart--why do you need so many?  So I trimmed down and trimmed down.  And you know what?  They were wrong--it wasn't enough.

This is because there were two duds on the top of the pile.  I'd heard excellent things about Maze Runner, by James Dashner.  I'd heard that it was a must for fans of The Hunger Games and Graceling (they're not that similar, but their fan base has a lot of overlap--me, for example).  Anyway, I raced out for it. 

And I kind of hated it.  I gave it a good go--a full quarter of its length before I gave it up.  But I disliked it enough that I had no urge to push on through.  I may have been prejudiced by the horrible blurb on the back cover:  "A boom exploded through the air," or something like that.  (I maintain that a passage from the book on the back cover never does a book any good and often works against it.)  The book is full of declarative sentences that try to keep the pace moving, but there's just way too much tour guide-style explaining of the circumstances we find ourselves in, and not enough storytelling.

The worst part, though, is the vagueness of everything.  It's told in the third person, but the viewpoint character, Thomas, is someone without a lot of information.  He's learning his way around, and he's in a new and frightening situation.  I can't say his reaction isn't authentic, but it's really annoying--his feelings are all over the map with almost no reason I can see.  Take his feelings about Charlie, his first friend.  Thomas finds him annoying, but then kind of charming, and it's good to have an ally even if he's kind of irritating, but he really wants to be alone so can't Charlie just go away?  But he loves the little guy, even for his annoying habits, which are so annoying and why doesn't Charlie just disappear already?

And since all the characters have no memories of their lives before their current circumstances, there are a lot of plot points that are driven on by strong feelings or senses.  He could sense that the creature wanted to get inside the walls and eat him.  There's no indication of what caused that sensation--a baleful glare, impatient pacing, slathering jaws.  He has a powerful urge to be a Runner, and a sense that he's connected to another character, without any clue what that "sense" feels like.  It's maddening.

So, to be blunt, hated it.

The other one was a random shelf-pick, so I'm not so disappointed to have realized that it wasn't a great choice.  The book is called The Rapture, by Liz Jensen, and it had an intriguing premise: in a near future dominated by cataclysmic weather and environmental upheaval, a young woman recovering from a life-changing accident gets a job as a therapist at an institution for violent adolescent mental patients.  Her most difficult patient has visions of an apocalyptic future that come to be more and more clearly prescient. 

Now, this sounds promising.  And the writer had some skill--the language was thoughtful and beautiful.  It's the storytelling that was missing.  The first chunk of the book was a conversation with a psychotic, which was rambling and repetitious.  I'd flip ahead a couple of pages and find something interesting had happened, but I'd go back and think, "You're going to make me read through all this to get to there?"  And then I'd skip a few pages and get bored, and flip ahead again and repeat.

So, two surrenders.  Oh, and Wasteland: Cities in DustWasteland Book 1: Cities In Dust (Bk. 1), by Antony Johnston.  Post-apocalyptic comics--sounds great, right?  I wanted to love it--I like the art, and if you described the characters and scenario to me, I'd be sold.  But somehow the art is flat and hard to parse.  The characters are hard to keep straight, the factions and creatures and cities and dangers.  The naming conventions are cutesy--characters named Abi and Jamez, danger from "wulves."  It's just too much, and I couldn't get into it, no matter how much I wanted to.

So, onward to better things, right?  Witches, The Owl Killers, Marcelo in the Real World.  One of them will stick.

1 comment:

Mrs. N said...

I'm really interested to hear your take on Marcelo. I had some conflicted feelings about the end, but I've only read it once. Maybe another reading will help me (which will probably be in April) but definitely want to know what you think.