Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Exley by Brock Clarke

Rating 4/5

This book plays pinball with your head, specifically your suspension of disbelief. Usually an author will let you know up front what's true and what's false in his story, which characters are lying and their motivation - but those are the very things that create the mystery in this book. The characters, especially the sympathetic protagonist, want to believe their own fictions so much that you want to believe them too. But their stories clash, there's only one truth, and it turns out each of them has a part of it but not the whole. This makes for a real mind-bending uncertainty, especially in the last half of the book. The result is an unsettling and intriguing reading experience. Clarke has done something unique (to me, at least) in his story, something that made me think closely about the usually trustworthy relationship between an author and his reader. This book is twisty, sometimes confusing, but always fascinating.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Rating: 3/5

Dean Koontz makes it hard not to compare him to Stephen King, because it seems like that's where he gets his ideas. The difference between them is in the depth - of the characters and of the web of evil in which they become entangled. While almost every King book seems epic in these qualities, Koontz's seem like a pale shadow. A lot of reviews hail this book as the return of Koontz at his best - if that's the case, I'm not in any great hurry to catch up on those that I haven't read yet. I'll say it again - what makes a horror book terrifying is an intense connection with the characters to which the scary things are happening. King is a master at this, Koontz is not.

That said, this book in particular isn't bad or anything. The story is interesting enough, but it was hard (for me at least) to relate to the characters. Do families so perfect even exist? Koontz's attempt to juxtapose great evil with perfect innocent goodness creates a situation that rings false and even stereotyped at times. There were scattered paragraphs of near-philosophy in this book that sometimes broke up the pace just enough to jar my mind away from the story. Despite these flaws, however, I did continue reading with much curiosity. The ending was satisfying, if a little cheesy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Rating: 3/5

Though I found it difficult to stay interested in this book at times, it did have its moments. I can see the merits of the book - why it's a classic - but my unfamiliarity with a lot of the cultural allusions (such as the Operas and the actors) created quite a few moments where I fell out of the story. However, the main characters were compelling, and so was the conflict between constricting customs and human desires. In the end, it was definitely worth the effort.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 13th by John Everson

Rating: 1/5

Never trust the quotes on the back of a book. Maybe it's just me, but sick and twisted does not equal scary. This book was lame, the characters were all totally shallow and idiotic, and so was the dialogue. I forced myself to finish it because a) I thought maybe the ending would make up for everything else (it didn't), and b) I admit I was a bit curious to find out what was going on. Turns out it was just senseless gore, which is a bore.