The synopsis of a Korean American woman who accidentally stumbles on the mystery of her parents murder five years ago really does not accurately descrThe synopsis of a Korean American woman who accidentally stumbles on the mystery of her parents murder five years ago really does not accurately describe The Interpreter. Ironic in a way, because the novel is all about how expectations can be fraught with mistakes and there are things whose meaning are always out of comprehension's grasp.
The good is that Suki Kim has wonderful scenes and turns of phrases. There's a melancholy tone throughout that aches and you really do get into the skin and sadness that inhabits Suzy Park. The scene of the last deposition is really the emotional payoff of the novel, with Suzy as the witness but finally understanding the interplay of what goes on. It is the perfect blend of emotion, symbolism and character development.
The bad is that it drags. The more compelling story of how Suzy deals with her troubled relationships regarding her parents and especially he sister are often overshadowed by retreading of her romances with older, married men. In fact, it takes more than half the novel for Suzy to actually even begin to examine the evidence that her parents' murder was more than it seemed, opting instead to meander through Suzy's romantic complications and hang ups. Meanwhile, the actual plot of the whodunnit is sparse, padded out and largely held up by the uncommunicative nature of the participants.
The Interpreter at its most effective is a study of culture and loneliness seen through the fractured set up of a person who was orphaned literally and figuratively by her family's behavior. The plot is more a frame that allows Kim to segue from one scene to the other, and the best parts come as observations rather than a culmination of the other elements. Best read in moody introspective moments, but people who want tightly paced stories with proactive motion should find something else....more
**spoiler alert** The story begins with a train barreling out of control, its conductor so petrified she can do nothing except for mutter about tunnel**spoiler alert** The story begins with a train barreling out of control, its conductor so petrified she can do nothing except for mutter about tunnel creatures. Batman manages to stop the train in time, but is perplexed since there is no sign of fear gas, all the Arkham inmates are accounted for, and one nosy reporter ended up stealing evidence in the form of a paperback book.
The premise seems like a really good set up for a suspense laden thriller as Batman works his way through his rogue's gallery to find out who would bother spraying horror novels with a fear toxin he can't detect by regular means, and if it's the first step in a much more sinister plan. However, this novel fails in almost every execution, dithering around with repetitive exposition and unnecessary original characters not contributing anything to the forwarding of the plot except by means of their own obstruction. It gets so bad that the major plot summation comes as a "so what" over drinks on page 161:
"All right," Maggie said, setting her own cup down on the table. "Here it is. The driver of that runaway train was reading your new novel, Fear Itself." There was a moment's hesitation before Berwald asked, "So?"
That's pretty much how I felt this entire book. It takes 161 pages to actually get someone to mention this fear toxin conspiracy to the author whose novel, Fear Itself has been the only one to contain the drug. That is almost half the book. And it's not even Batman or Captain Gordon who confronts him about it! There is no reason for it to take this long, not at the expense of Batman and the police sitting passively by. The mystery itself is something the reader has to patiently wait for the characters to catch up to. We learn nothing beyond what the first incident tells us until the last seventy pages of the book, and even then the reveal is slipshod in terms of how the Scarecrow set up this network before his incarceration in order to escape later, or why it takes Batman so long to put the pieces together.
The worst part about all this filler is that it doesn't even feature the characters that would be the draw of the book. Batman, Gordon and Alfred are all there, but vaguely characterized. It instead prefers to fill up the pages with the specifically created characters who are all annoying, two-dimensional, and often take up the spotlight of the novel at the expense of the responsibility, dignity, or rationality of the characters much better served for it.
Maggie Tollyer: a self-righteous ex-journalist who made her mark writing an expose that blamed a magician for the deaths of kids who tried to recreate his stunts. When the magician committed suicide she blamed herself and gave up journalism to write a blog, but as soon as she realizes there's a horror novel near the victim's terrified body, she steals the copy and begins to stalk the author and using the same "your fault and your responsibility" that killed the previous subject she quit journalism over. For some reason, Batman lets her steal the book and only thinks of returning to get it once he maybe considers it was evidence. Even after that he doesn't short shrift her for her selfish and terrible behavior, going so far as to try and entice her into a dinner date with his alter-ego Bruce Wayne. Later on, when Maggie has crashed a party to try and interrogate the author of the novel, Grey Bernwald, he asks her out on a date, charmed by her harassment. Also, in the most egregious moments of the novel, Batman apparently can't go and find out information about someone in Undertown so he lets her and a plain clothes cop wander there to talk to a pimp and an arms dealer instead. That's right, Batman lets a civilian into an area of Gotham so dangerous even the gangs won't go into it. Because he apparently can't get information out efficiently of the very people he's made it his life's work to fight against.
Grey Bernwald: the horror novelist, of whom the novel describes as being as rich as Bruce Wayne. I don't know how some author who isn't J.K. Rowling can match the head of a multi-billion dollar company but okay then. Also he's handsome, charitable, has a good ol' boy Southern charm, and apparently has the ability to make even Bruce Wayne feel at ease and want to be friends with him for completely personal reasons. His novels are so good that the Scarecrow, once he escapes, demands Grey Bernwald teach him how to write because he is "only the technician" and Bernwald is the artist. That's right, a sociopath with a PhD in fear psychology needs to be told the basic Stephen King "what is fear" lessons and gets positively rapturous for his approval, even though Stephen Crane is generally an elitist psychopath who sees everyone else as tools. Grey also gets a tragic death scene due to the last minute reveal that he did, in fact, help Crane escape (something the novel never points out because BATMAN AND THE GCPD NEVER INTERVIEW HIM) and dies after Batman leaves him trapped in a cave with electric rails and fear toxin laden robots, assuming he'll be fine.
Cutter: the henchmen with Tourette's syndrome, is a pathetic ex-druggie who can't really think straight and comes from a vague and tortured past. There are passages that seem to suggest his real handicap is the Tourette's and not the brain damage/possible insanity from years of drug abuse and the decision to help a crazy madman. He later switches sides to help Batman, even though Batman promptly leaves him alone with no tracer to track his movements and doesn't bother keeping tabs on him via a stakeout, instead playing sports with Berwald as Bruce Wayne.
This novel is bad. It's bad as a Batman novel, but it's also bad as a regular novel because in order for tension to be continued everyone has to act exceedingly obtuse. The narration itself tries to put in vague asides hinting at further reveals but, at best, they're simply uninteresting character motivation for the original characters, or, at worst, moments where the novel is blatantly ignoring the obvious solution in order to draw things out, such as...oh, having Batman do any of the investigative work. There are no strange new complications that occur in the pages, and when 2/3rds in the person behind the fear toxin is actually revealed as the Scarecrow it feels like the dumbest longest paced "ta da!" moment ever because the Scarecrow is on the cover of the book. The whole thing tries to be an elaborate slight of hand, but you're never distracted by anything it pulls out. Fear Itself fails, not only because it doesn't excite, it bores the reader....more
A rare day off for the Fantastic Four turns into a impromptu war zone as they discover various creatures from the Negative Zone have invaded their dimA rare day off for the Fantastic Four turns into a impromptu war zone as they discover various creatures from the Negative Zone have invaded their dimension and are wreaking havoc. Now Mr. Fantastic and the Thing must go into the depths of the dangerous Negative Zone to discover the cause behind it while the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch stay behind to stave off the threat.
Greg Cox is one of my favorite comic book novelization writers because he really tends to make it feel like part of the comic universe set through prose. The stakes are always high, the battles long and hard fought, and his style of erstwhile verbosity and technical jargon works especially well in the canon where Reed Richards constantly keeps going on about quantum mechanisms being displayed to the nth axis. Although real physicists might roll their eyes at the discussions, this is a novel about an antimatter universe invasion, so I think that level of realism has been well and truly suspended.
Each of the main characters get their moments to shine in this novel through personal moments and acts of heroism. In the Thing's case, a short lived romance was my favorite for how it felt like something anybody writing the series would have loved to include. Fans of Ben and Johnny's bickering, the family moments, and well worn catchphrases need not worry about these things being excluded. There are some cute nods to fans, such as a cavalry of H.E.R.B.I.E.s coming to the rescue while Johnny Storm grudgingly admits their usefulness, even as he mentions how annoying he finds them.
While this novel is not a groundbreaking idea--evil invaders hatch plan to take over/destroy Earth, are repelled, rinse, wash, repeat--fans of Fantastic Four will enjoy the ride. Readers who turn up their noses at comic book superheroics won't find anything Literary and Deep here to change their mind, but this is a thoroughly fun read if you're already a fan of the world and characters....more
This is a book whose cover sums up all the good qualities of the story. The art is beautiful, the writing is abysmal. Bad does not even begin to coverThis is a book whose cover sums up all the good qualities of the story. The art is beautiful, the writing is abysmal. Bad does not even begin to cover it. The narration is stilted and amateurish, none of the characters have their own particular voice besides some ill-fitted attempts at dialect, the tone can't please children or adults. Overall it ruins what might be a fun story in the dark whimsical vein of Coraline or The Stuff of Legend, instead making it a chore.
Freewill is a Printz honor and one of those books that you appreciate what the book is trying to do more than enjoy the execution.
Told in the secon2.5
Freewill is a Printz honor and one of those books that you appreciate what the book is trying to do more than enjoy the execution.
Told in the second person, in a sparse and almost repetitive cadence, the story is about Will, who is disconnected from life and whose only outlet seems to be strange woodwork projects that he doesn't even particularly enjoy. When the wood totems show up in a series of suicides, unwanted attention is drawn to him and he must decide if he should speak up or let himself become part of the nothing he feels he has to live for.
I think Lynch made a lot of smart choices in framing. While many people would find the "you" off-putting, it helps reinforce the reader's own questions. However, Will is still so much a nonentity and passive character that he is neither a proper cypher for the reader to insert their own desires into nor interesting enough to carry the story's odd and morbid tone the way the narrators of Silver Linings Playbook or Perks of Being a Wallflower manage.
The other characters don't work as complex or lively characters either, partially from the remoteness of Will's relationship with them. This leaves most of their discussions feeling like talking points of the plot, anti-suicide PSAs rather than their own motivations.
This novel is not without compelling moments. While the choice to make the prose simple and sparse, Lynch has passages that are vivid. One example that made me take notice was when Will was taking a shower after forgetting clean himself for three days and remarks on the wonderful feeling of scrubbing skin, reminding himself to remember it because it's a nice small pleasure that is easily forgotten.
Unfortunately, the sparseness and the vagueness work against the story more than help it. The mystery of the totems and the suicides are left unresolved or even commented it on, as the story winds off into a palatable non-ending where Will finally makes a choice not to be so passive. I do like an open-endedness to my stories, but there's not enough to structure to make the suggestion of possibilities. On the bright side, the story is a brisk novella more than anything else and there are some passages that create a thoughtful starting point for the weighty topic.
And perhaps that is all that Freewill wanted to do, was to present the reader with a choice to do so......more
When a girl who has been bullied for years decides to bring the three tormenters to their government class for a trial, the case exposes the frailtiesWhen a girl who has been bullied for years decides to bring the three tormenters to their government class for a trial, the case exposes the frailties of justice when the class is made to participate.
The good: with short chapters and easy to understand language, this is a good book for reluctant readers who find the premise intriguing. It's a fast read, more middle grade fare with YA subject matter. The set up premise makes sense as well. Victimized Ivy never really makes herself sympathetic and is mostly passive, which helps in setting up the reasonableness of how this longstanding abuse has gone on and why so many classmates turn a blind eye to it. The chapters alternate between different POVs, showing how the personal desires and motivations can interfere with truthful findings.
The bad: for those who wanted a more nuanced or complex story hinted from the premise, you will find the set up promising but most of the characters behind them as one-note: the space case, the painfully shy one, the self-preservationist, the upstanding serious one. The plot hinges on a lot of failures of the kids, who are either ineffective or sycophantic (and the only one who takes it seriously sounds too much like an adult to be realistic, not to mention being conveniently removed from pulling a Twelve Angry Men with the jury pool). The continued sham of a trial compiles these problems, bringing with it a suspension of disbelief that never holds enough sympathy or character development to bring about a satisfactory resolution, guilty or innocent....more
A proto-dramatist work that's parts Catch 22 and parts The Things They Carried, Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead is a one act play that explains what happenA proto-dramatist work that's parts Catch 22 and parts The Things They Carried, Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead is a one act play that explains what happens when six soldiers refused to be buried, on the grounds that the rational for their deaths is insufficient for their permanent internment so they will stay unburied until they finish their purpose.
A minimalist setup is good for creating some brief, stark images. The idea is a brilliant foundation of potential to question philosophy, mortality and everything in between. While Shaw often gets a little too heavy handed and didactic, especially with the generals' interludes, there are moments in the play that speak strongly to the incomprehensible nature of death and dying for causes not personally held by those who suffered for it. At the very least, playwrights might want to keep this as historical context of an anti-war play that speaks to the times between the world wars....more