Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Quick Book Review - 1Q84

Ramblings Post #230
I like to read. When I was a kid I would sit at the kitchen counter with a mixing bowl of cereal (I saw it on the Beverly Hillbillies, I'm a shameless mimic) and crack open the latest book. And I would slowly work my way through it, munching all the while, tackling 200-pages or more in one sitting. There is something about a good book. It transports you, educates you, makes you dream and wonder. It awakens the mind. And yet so few people pick up a book and read unless required. So sad.

My Brother's copy, which I must return.

I'm guessing my first warning should have been my brother recommended the book.

Don't get me wrong, my brother is a writer and some of the books he's suggested I read have been excellent. But his milieu is the "human experience," where the author delves into an exploration of the pathos of man's psyche and peers into the nuances of the mundane in an attempt to paint a silhouette of the eternal soul. Or something like that. And I did give the book an okay at first glance, first admiring it's weight and page count, and then liking the print size. Not the best measures I know, but sometimes you take a leap. And it was supposed to be science fiction.  

I get the impression now my brother doesn't read a lot of "science fiction."

Now I've read cerebral science fiction before. The kind that explores new social constructs, new ways of living, new ways of thinking, and have delved into man's inhumanity to both man and alien. This particular story was a more personal introspection. Way more introspection than I'm used to. Probably too much introspection. It was translated from it's original Japanese, where it was a bestseller. Maybe they go big for introspection.

Okay, the facts. The story is one of a man and woman, who crossed paths as children, haven't seen each other in twenty years and now both long for one another. And a novella he ghost writes.  And her struggle against societal constructs. And mystical little people. And cults. There might even be a ghost in there somewhere, I'm not sure. And a parallel world. Well, parallel world kinda of abuses the phrase, but because although it seems key to the story it's not really explored. The point of view is that of the two main characters so the worldview is fairly narrow by design. That is until the last third of the book, where they add a  third person's viewpoint. Seriously, they add a third person viewpoint. Then momentarily a fourth. But I digress.

Perhaps linear writing is more of an American trait. A character appeared, then was gone. Another seemed important, then disappeared. I've read works with disparate timelines for the various viewpoints before, ala Game of Thrones, so that wasn't really an issue. But then the story would stop to describe in detail the guy's dinner or linger on a supporting character's back-story for five pages, just meandering about. These things would pop up, get you interested, then cease to exist within the narrative. There were one or two other things - plot points, lines of logic and such that appeared obvious to me as a science fiction reader that came across as muddled in the tale as well.

And even with all that, the thing about it all, the weird part, is that I found the whole experience of reading it flat. For all the praise this novel has received, I kept seeing characters who lived lackluster lives outside of a single highlight to wedge them into this story. I kept waiting for the moment when everything changed. Or when the characters at least started thinking differently. Or had an epiphany. Or when all the machinations of the narrators culminated into a serious situation. Or something. I don't need gun play or explosions, but a dramatic moment to pin it all up. Or show how it's not going to be pinned all up. Anything at all. Or maybe I missed it. Maybe it was too subtle for my untrained mind.

Maybe the book just wasn't meant for me.

I'm not sure who I would suggest read something like this. It's far too light on the science for science fiction, but not enough character development for actual literature.

Barkeep, I need so cereal, in one of them big mixing bowls. Yes, I realize this is a bar, but isn't the customer always right? 

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