I was excited to read what I thought would be some first-rate escapist fiction. Not only does the jacket flap promise government-run battles-to-the-deI was excited to read what I thought would be some first-rate escapist fiction. Not only does the jacket flap promise government-run battles-to-the-death, but it's written by Pierre Boulle—the guy who gave us Planet of the Apes. What could go wrong?
As it turns out: everything.
The old writing adage about "Show, don't tell" never reached Boulle—or is it possible that this is an incredibly botched translation? The entire book is written passively, with long explanations of the setting-up of a new, science-based world order. There's rarely any dialogue. Names are mentioned, but without any insight into what the people are feeling or thinking, I hesitate to call them "characters." The whole book is a lot like listening to someone tell about a workday in tedious detail, while referring to people you don't know.
By the time the book gets to the goods—the death battles—almost 3/4 of the book has elapsed. There are some fantastic ideas here, and some brutal deaths, but by this time, there's no reason to care, and again, the descriptions of the battles are passive, sucking out a lot of the excitement.
This was a real struggle to finish, and a huge disappointment. I feel as if, rather than reading a novel, I've read someone's lengthy description of how he wanted his novel to unfold. ...more
A perfect story that's as tight as the stitches in the protagonist's mutilated back. A convergence of sci-fi, horror, and the post-apocalypse, but theA perfect story that's as tight as the stitches in the protagonist's mutilated back. A convergence of sci-fi, horror, and the post-apocalypse, but the dominant theme is the destructive power of guilt. If you only know Lansdale for his crime novels, you know he's a master plotter. This story is proof that he's just as deft with language. Disturbingly lovely. ...more
This one will be on my mind for a long time. I knew from the synopsis citing a "time-traveling serial killer" that I had to give it a look, but what rThis one will be on my mind for a long time. I knew from the synopsis citing a "time-traveling serial killer" that I had to give it a look, but what really intrigued me were the reviews suggesting it might actually be literary, too.
The Shining Girls delivers on so many fronts. Harper Curtis would be an interesting killer even if he hadn't stumbled on a way to move through time via an old house in Chicago. But he has, and it gives him new ways to interact with his selected victims. Most chillingly, he starts visiting women he has killed before he has killed them, meeting them as little girls, and telling them what lies ahead. “I’ll see you when you’re all grown-up,” he tells Kirby Mazrachi. “Look out for me, O.K., sweetheart? I’ll come back for you.”
But here's the kicker: the book actually makes the women interesting. None of them are mere victims. They're bright, they're doers, they're not just interesting but interested in things. From the radium-painted fan dancer of the '20s to the secret abortionist in the late '60s, the women have qualities that make them shine, and it's this that Harper is drawn to. Beukes has managed to write a book about a serial killer murdering women and somehow managed to celebrate women at the same time. It's a tough task.
But wait, there's more! The Shining Girls gives good history as it zigs and zags through time periods. It's really several books in one, and all of them are well executed. Very clever.