May 29, 2013

Island of the Sequined Love Nun, by Christopher Moore

I wish I could say I liked this book more, since it's by one of my favorite authors, but it left me feeling rather indifferent. There were flashes of the hilarity and vulgarity that made me love "Lamb" and "Fool," but unlike those books, I never laughed out loud once. Sure, the story is great, and I do think the idea is pretty brilliant. But maybe it's just too much of a traditional "bad boy turned good" story to catch my interest the way Moore's other books have. I can't give away much of the plot without ruining it, and it really did have a great, feel-good ending, I just wish there had been more Moore-iness to enjoy.

May 21, 2013

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

I have to say, this classic horror story surprised me. I was not at all expecting such an unusual format from a book written in 1897; Stoker tells the story of Dracula through various diary entries, telegrams, letters, and newspaper clippings. It reminded me somewhat of Robinson's "2312," which also took an unconventional path to storytelling. It was intriguing to read of the same events in different voices, and the format also made for more fun in guessing what would happen next. I also wasn't expecting to be frightened by "Dracula," with all that we are subjected to in modern cinema and literature, but I could very easily imagine a reader at the turn of the century, reading with the help of flame instead of light bulbs, being utterly terrified at the lurid descriptions. Stoker tells a great story, so that even a jaded 21st Century reader like myself, dealing with the relatively cumbersome prose of the 19th Century, became wrapped up in the novel. My only complaint is the rambling, repetitive musings of Dr. van Helsing, who does seem to go on and on and on. And since he is Dutch, and his English is not perfect, it takes a bit more effort to make it through his long speeches. Otherwise, what a wonderfully surprising read!

May 8, 2013

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami

I probably should not have picked up this particular book for my first venture into Murakami's work, but I was still thoroughly impressed. He is clearly an adept and beautiful writer, and I will definitely be reading some of his other fiction. This 925-page tome is, basically, a fairy tale. There is the hero and the heroine, who are fated to be together and feel that subconsciously. There is the supernatural force, not necessarily evil, but certainly destructive in its own way. It just seems unnecessary for the book to have been this long. Proust features prominently in the latter part of the story, and there are certainly echoes of Proustian attention, nay, obsession with detail: we read about how many glasses of water the character drinks, what they eat for every meal, the quotidian minutiae of their days. My guess is this was all very deliberate, but it gets boring after a while, as do the main characters' inner ramblings. They are repetitious and unfocused, particularly towards the end. I read the first three-quarters quite quickly (as I said, the writing is beautiful and the story unique), but the last bit was difficult to get through. "Finish, already!" I found myself mentally yelling at Murakami. My feeling is that at this point, having so many successful, critically acclaimed, bestselling novels, editors are loathe to change too much of Murakami's writing. But in this case, a firm editing hand would have done greater justice to the work. Novels don't need to be short, but nearly a thousand pages is a bit much.