I may be in some sort of funk. It is getting harder to write reviews and harder still to finish books. A lack of time and desire means this blog gets ignored in favor of... anything, really. The time I spend surfing around the SFF community has dropped like a rock. Perhaps because there are only so many times you can read repeated discussions and topics before it all starts to get a bit dull. I have been reading though and, when needed, used my Tumblr account that nobody likely knows about. I wrote about two of my recent reads there, Red Shift and The Big Sleep.
Try as I might, I was unable to sit down and write a review for Red Shift. Several attempts were made, but they all crumbled before I was even out of the first paragraph. It is a difficult book to discuss and the format, the small islands of narration within a vast sea of dialogue, has everything to do with it. It is not enough to say that the book manages to convey depth and complexity despite this format, which I have only ever seen in comedic books that never rise above simplistic and lazy, or that the opening is strange and confusing. No, I find myself wanting typing out large swathes of text to quote because it is something that you, the reader, have to experience for yourself. There is so much skill and talent to be found in Red Shift that it left me feeling excited and amazed... and angry that I had not heard of Garner before now.
There were several things that bothered me about this book. The sexism, homophobia, and racism was a major issue that managed to knock me out of the story more times than I bothered to count. A product of the book's times? Sure. It is not, however, something that should be ignored or excused in these modern times. Even now, I wonder if looking to Chandler for inspiration might instill those same bad habits--especially given the anti-PC attitude I have seen often both in life and around the internet. The other issue I had with the book was a matter of pacing. Halfway through the book, everything that matters is settled and it is looking like a good time to wrap things up and call it a day. There's still half a book left though because there's a mystery to be solved, even though no one is paying for it and few people seem happy about our detective's snooping. Least of all me.
Speaking of books that could have ended early, I was reading Andrey Kurkov's Death and the Penguin. Was. After 173 pages (Nook-reckoning) and fifty-seven chapters, I could not push myself any further. It was not a bad book by any means and I enjoyed reading it, but as the book continued and fell into one lull after another, my interest began to wane. Forward progression was a matter of characters waiting, doing nothing of import, as time slips by. I would love to see the book through to the end, to find out what happens, but I just can't take it anymore.
Joey Comeau is at least half responsible for the excellent webcomic, A Softer World. If the praise was anything to go by, One Bloody Thing After Another promised to be a comedic, if disturbing horror novel. Unless the parts of my brain that register humor and fear are broken, the book is neither. That is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, as the book is a decent read and, if not horrifying, definitely strange. Everything is not rainbows and sunshine though. I did not like the main character, Jackie, because she is the sort of wild, crazy character that instantly turns me off. It is like watching a romantic comedy from the perspective and mind of the cliched Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Actually, looking at it in that light makes the character less grating and more interesting. The horror aspects of the novel were rushed, developing mostly off-screen without detail or explanation and derailing any poignancy that might have been gained by its outcome. In fact, the entire book felt rushed. For all of the interesting bits and weirdness, some lingering and detail would have done wonders.