Very impressive for a first-time novelist. The choppy rhythm and cadence of the narrator may take some adjustment, but it's not too off-putting or abs...moreVery impressive for a first-time novelist. The choppy rhythm and cadence of the narrator may take some adjustment, but it's not too off-putting or abstract. It reminded me of the way that I think or talk to a friend while I'm on a hike or exercising; a smooth and steady flow of energized creativity expressed in short bursts of breath, and it works really well for the character. As a reader you feel like you're on a hike with Hig as he's narrating his story to you, and that's a pretty special feeling for a novel to achieve.(less)
Brandon weaves a chilling suspense tale that is totally devoid of any stereotypical one-dimensional suspense characters. What we have instead is a gro...moreBrandon weaves a chilling suspense tale that is totally devoid of any stereotypical one-dimensional suspense characters. What we have instead is a group of people who are as deeply layered and complicated as real-life people, each with their own fears and just-slightly-twisted obsessions that make them seem so close to reality that we could speak to them or hug them...not that we would want to. The book follows the life of the perpetrator so closely that there's no room for edge-of-your-seat mystery or head-scratching. Instead, the joy in reading comes from peeling back the layers of these awkwardly placed and often misguided characters, and I found myself rushing back to the book not as much for the storyline but just to see what Toby or Shelby or Mr. Hibma would do next, what part of their warped sense of themselves in this garish setting I could identify with. Brandon writes great dialogue and his writing holds a shaky but reverent light up to this strange part of the country which add much to the richness of his tale.
My only complaint would be the way that the novel finished, the last fifteen pages reading more like a summary from a police report than a chapter of the carefully crafted tale that Brandon had weaved so far. Still recommendable, if not for the good writing then just for a refreshing break from the cliches that are so commonplace in similar novels.(less)
A charming and well-crafted allegory that never really rises to anything more than that. Maybe I expected more from all the rave reviews from friends....moreA charming and well-crafted allegory that never really rises to anything more than that. Maybe I expected more from all the rave reviews from friends. Dodge has a Kesey-like love of rural California that shines in his prose, and the trio of main characters are a loveable bunch (as well as the antagonist wild boar), but there's nothing here that really socked me over the head, demanding the high praise that I've heard from so many. Still worth the read; it must be hard to craft such a tight novel in so few pages.(less)
A pretty awesome philosophical head trip, but not much holding it together beyond that...maybe I missed the boat on this book by not having read it ea...moreA pretty awesome philosophical head trip, but not much holding it together beyond that...maybe I missed the boat on this book by not having read it early on. I'm sure it was pretty amazing when it came out, for being such a philosophical book for kids AND for being written in 1962, and I would love to have read it back then, but now it seems a little heavy-handed, a little silly, and without much to provoke interest.(less)
Bizarre and grotesque and cheeky, yet wonderfully illustrated and beautifully colored. The most compelling aspect of it, though, is not really the ill...moreBizarre and grotesque and cheeky, yet wonderfully illustrated and beautifully colored. The most compelling aspect of it, though, is not really the illustration or the outlandishness, but how succinct Stokoe is at world-building. Every detail is laid out very naturally; some elements are worth explaining, while others are subversively placed in the background. It's all very rich and suggests that Stokoe is very skilled at creating an absorbing environment as much as he is at illustrating or telling a good story (the plot isn't very fresh or original, but that's excusable given how fresh [or rotten, rather, in the best possible way] the rest of the book is).(less)
A well-written book in which you don't care for any of the characters is a tricky beast. I struggled with Crossing to Safety after first picking it up...moreA well-written book in which you don't care for any of the characters is a tricky beast. I struggled with Crossing to Safety after first picking it up. There wasn't much that drew me to really care about the lives of the narrator: a wonderfully lucky young academic, his loving wife, and the wonderfully lucky young academic and rich couple that lavishes love and attention on the two, all four reveling in their wonderful friendship, their wonderful riches, and their wonderful ivy-league-sharpened minds. It seemed like more of an autobiography than the compelling novel I had pictured it to be, and if it were poorly written, I would have dropped it for lack of interest.
But Wallace Stegner is a great talent; his writing is exquisite and yet down to earth. His recollections (if these are indeed semi-autobiographical) are warm without being too repulsively wishy-washy. The topic of conversation between the Morgans and the Langs, as they grow old and stretch their writerly bowstrings, each with different degrees of talent and success, frequently turns to the idea of how to write a good novel without the frills of a normal plot with its highs and lows and climaxes; Stegner seems to be existentially saluting this goal in writing the book, and by investing our time and attention with it we are made to salute with him. The characters are there to be their unremarkable selves and to live within the book, not to carry the plot or serve as a foil for another, and you are drawn into this ring of characters as if you yourself were a good friend of theirs. Bravo, Stegner. You did it. Whether or not these folks are based on your own life and friends, you have transformed my sympathy for them through your talented prose, and I will remember their thoughts and care for their well-being as if I knew them.(less)
As I re-read this book at age 26, I'm realizing how much of a profound effect it had on my life at age 13. I've always struggled with the question of...moreAs I re-read this book at age 26, I'm realizing how much of a profound effect it had on my life at age 13. I've always struggled with the question of which book changed my life, but rereading this now, I think I have an answer. The aura of mystery surrounding the idea of parallel worlds is certainly something to light a candle to. But apart from that fascinating seed of an idea, I think I was also affected by the characters in the book, several of which possess a strength and dignity that however uncomplicated and shallow, however out of touch with reality, left a strong impression on me. Pullman has crafted a world that is rich with not just good and evil, but mixed blessings and intentions in the powers that be. There's the obvious and hotly-debated implications around the representations of the Church, but most of that plot is in the background, at least in this second volume. Here, Pullman focuses on character, and some of these characters wield their sense of purpose and honor so deftly, so like an instrument or weapon, that he may as well have written The Book of Five Rings for the YA-fantasy genre. At least that's what I took away from the book as I read it at age 13, and although now I can understand and even agree with much of the criticism about this series, I can't overlook the fact that it helped teach me how to wield my dignity as a human being like a samurai sword--or a subtle knife--and that with such a weapon as a sharply defined purpose and sense of honor, you can open worlds, see the powers of authority for what they are, and achieve the impossible.(less)