It took me 3 days to finish the last 20 pages of this novel. Not a good sign. I found it long, tedious, repetitive, and most of all, frustrating. Frus...moreIt took me 3 days to finish the last 20 pages of this novel. Not a good sign. I found it long, tedious, repetitive, and most of all, frustrating. Frustrating because the scenes that were good were good. O'Brien is a good writer. I just found the story rather pointless. Which come to think of it, maybe WAS the point of the whole novel. The novel as metaphor for the war itself: Long, tedious, repetitive, and most of all, frustrating. You're just trying to survive until the end. I give 3 stars instead of two because I did finish reading the book, and overall the writing was good and has held up over 30 years without becoming a Vietnam cliche.(less)
Well, I finally gave in and read THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy. I usually resist reading books that I am "supposed" to read. This novel just won the Pu...moreWell, I finally gave in and read THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy. I usually resist reading books that I am "supposed" to read. This novel just won the Pulitzer, but come on, how many post-apocalyptic stories, novels, and films have been done? Dozens? Hundreds? Nothing new under the sun, I figured. I also resisted for so long because of McCarthy's lack of punctuation in his novels, a trick that I find pretentious. But I caved and joined the bandwagon.
Now, besides his lack of quotation marks and apostrophes, his writing style is of the sort that you either love or you don't. I swear at some points McCarthy was just making up words on the fly. Thirty pages into the book I hated it, and regretted ever going down the road. But like a bad movie you don't want to walk out on in the hopes that it will get better, I stuck with the novel, waiting for something to happen.
The father and son, who are the lead characters, travel the road in search of other "good guy" survivors of the unnamed apocalypse (nuclear war, I guess) that ruined the world, burning it to a lifeless gray ash (if you removed all the times McCarthy used the words "gray" and "ash," the novel would be a third shorter). They are on a vague route toward the coast, in the hopes that it will be better and there will be more people near the ocean. Meanwhile, they have to scavenge for clothes, food and water, while keeping an eye out for the "bad guys," other survivors who might want to kill them and steal their provisions.
Page 90 (of 241) came and went, and I still wasn't liking it any better. McCarthy seemed to be as lost as his characters, wandering aimlessly in search of something meaningful. Then on page 93 McCarthy decided the book needed more of a plot. There is a scene in a basement of a house that just turned the whole book around. Now it got interesting. Also at this point, McCarthy begins to tell the story in a more straightforward manner, shaking off his Mr. Fancypants literary style somewhat and just getting down to the basics of telling the story.
But there is more to this book than "stuff happening" on the road. It is about the relationship between the father and young son, and the father's attempt to keep the boy alive and well, as well as keeping him on the side of the "good guys." That part isn't hard because the kid is innately good, and there were a few instances where I wondered if McCarthy was hinting at something larger, messianic. Either way, the father's instincts were to protect the boy; if the Earth was going to have a future that included humans, his life was more important than the father's.
I'm not one for having everything wrapped up nicely at the end of a story. And McCarthy didn't do that. Without giving it away, I can say that the end is left open and he can write a sequel if he chooses. Or, it can stand as it is, with the reader left to imagine the next day, month, year, century of this place called Earth.(less)
It's 2022 and the old time hippies of California (with a few New Yorkers thrown in) are now back together, this time in an assisted-living home. It's...moreIt's 2022 and the old time hippies of California (with a few New Yorkers thrown in) are now back together, this time in an assisted-living home. It's been a long time since the summer of love, but you wouldn't know it by the antics of the residents: sex, drugs, and rock n' roll still rule the day. The only problem? The woman who runs the joint does so with an iron fist, even to the point of having her boy toy staff doctor over medicate some of the residents to keep them in line. Well, as she soon finds out, these elderly hippies have one last rebellion left in their bones. Sandlin keeps the pace fast with short chapters and lots of dialogue. Funny stuff, but also some good musing on aging. 3 1/2 stars.
By the way, did you know my comic novel INTO THE SUNSET also takes place in an assisted-living home? Much different plot, though, about a young man who disguises himself as an elderly gent to live in one of these communities. :-) (less)
I found this book very encouraging at a time when I was just getting serious about writing. A lot of good advice, especially the self-editing chapter....moreI found this book very encouraging at a time when I was just getting serious about writing. A lot of good advice, especially the self-editing chapter. The parts about getting published and finding an agent seemed dated to me; things were different when King was starting out over 30 years ago.(less)