Friday, May 30, 2014

Snapshot Book Review: Fiend

FiendFiend by Peter Stenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a book about drug addicts, Fiend really succeeds. The mind and motivations of Chase are exactly as simplistic and yet complex as any drug addict I have ever known or read about.

As a zombie novel . . . it's not bad. Stenson doesn't delve very deeply into how or the zombie apocalypse happened, and since the book is told from the first-person point of view of a meth head, that makes sense, because he wouldn't know more than what he could observe and wouldn't care enough to sit there and "figure things out." Still, I can't help but feel as though it's a bit of a cop out. How did drugs keep this small contingent of people from being infected with "zonbie disease?" How did the disease come about in the first place? I'm a curious reader. I want to make sense of things!

My biggest issue with this book was its pacing. The pace starts out frenetic and really just tries to maintain that level all the way through. Yes, there are "down moments" when Chase reflects on the past or stops to really think about whatever situation he's in, but these feel more like stalls in the action than valleys in a rolling arc of narrative. Essentially there are just too. Many. CLIMAXES!

This might be the first time I've ever said this, but I think Fiend will do much better as a movie than it will as a novel. I hope a producer has the insight to pick it up.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Snapshot Book Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)The Goldfinch: A Novel by Donna Tartt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can absolutely understand why this novel won the Pulitzer Prize. It is extremely well written, with an astounding level of detail that is--as a resident of the New York City area, I can verify--very accurate. The scope, subject matter, and themes of the book are those that resonate today and will stand the test of time--all hallmarks of a prize-worthy book. Each character is nuanced and believable, and the narrator Theo is both reliable and unreliable in ways that any reader can identify the way they would a slightly neurotic but still endearing friend.

My feelings about Theo waxed and waned throughout the duration of the novel, which is an aspect I actually liked. It's difficult to enjoy a book where you don't particularly like or sympathize with the narrator, and my feelings for Theo shifted continually as the story progressed. He's essentially a sympathetic jerk, a stubborn pushover, if you will. His friend Boris is the perfect foil: a guy who is clearly trouble but with a good heart and a zeal for life that is addictive to both Theo and the reader. And who cannot relate to Theo's idolization and obsession with Pippa? She represents the obsessive adolescent attachments we label as "love" and pine for all our lives. Nothing resonated more with me than that subplot.

Of course, I had my qualms about this book. Sometimes the detail I found so impressive got to be too much. "Just get on with the story!" I found myself thinking periodically. Also, the very end was a massive disappointment. I don't mean the ending of the story itself; that was appropriately bittersweet. Life doesn't work out perfectly, and I think Theo's story ended on exactly the right note of an "almost" happy ending. However, those last cluster of pages are what really did me in. My opinion is that if the reader didn't understand Theo's mindset and the themes of the novel by the time he or she reached the end, then no amount of tiresome, explanatory exposition was going to give them a better reading experience. I read those last twenty pages only because I felt that I had to; I had come too far not to finish the book to its absolute conclusion. Were I the editor, however, I would have lopped them right off and finished the book where the story itself ended, leaving the reader to speculate on his or her own.

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