This is, to say the least, an unusual story. There isn't much I can say without spoiling the plot, so I'll stick to my impressions and reactions to th...more This is, to say the least, an unusual story. There isn't much I can say without spoiling the plot, so I'll stick to my impressions and reactions to the narrative.
"X" is skillfully told in first person, an artistic choice that pulls readers almost uncomfortably close to a main character/narrator who obviously has serious issues, of which he's aware, and that he's initially unable or unwilling to manage. Cale pretends he has a perfect life: an apparently stable marriage and a healthy relationship with his mother, father-in-law and his wife. Cale, however, is a character so contradictory that I kept turning the pages to see how soon (and how catastrophically) he would crash. An intellectual, as evidenced by the dozens of references that add to the narrative, he seems to be at peace with his job in the meat-packing industry, something I never quite understood, but that makes sense for a character who hides the truth about his habits and affectations, his marriage and a father who fails him over and over again with his absence. His interesting contradictions lie in everything about him: given his issues, how true are his feelings for his wife? How tight is his love for his mother (not very, but whose child's is)? What, exactly, are his feelings for his father and does he fear that he's inherited his father's alleged aberrations? And most importantly, to me, how real is his issue, and his path to resolve it? Is he committed to change, or does he just go through life and his circumstances as a witness rather than a participant?
The author does a good job, and it's not my place to point out the random typos that can be easily fixed in a second edition and which I'm sure the author is aware of. The footnotes and references, although distracting (the links didn't always work well) point to a rather revolutionary way of reading that is very interactive and shows readers aspects of Cale's psyche that might otherwise be more elusive. It works for "X" and I expect to see more of this trend in contemporary lit. Readers should overlook these quirks and focus on a strange, introspective, enthralling and authentically disturbed character and enjoy a very peculiar and enjoyable ride. Kudos to Mr. Thompson, whose writing I look forward to following.
Disturbing... it's amazing to find an author who can make you feel for the plight of deeply flawed characters. Gillian Flynn is amazingly talented...w...moreDisturbing... it's amazing to find an author who can make you feel for the plight of deeply flawed characters. Gillian Flynn is amazingly talented...what a pleasure to read her. I wasn't crazy about the twist at the end - but the ending wraps this unnerving and haunting story very well. (less)
What an incredible read; Gillian Flynn is one of the most entertaining, enthralling, talented writers I've read in a good, long while. I bought anothe...moreWhat an incredible read; Gillian Flynn is one of the most entertaining, enthralling, talented writers I've read in a good, long while. I bought another one of her books the nanosecond I finished reading "Gone Girl". THIS is a thriller!!!! Wow!(less)
Ryan Winfield does not need my review - hundreds of us are already singing him praises - but I just don't want to wrap up my readin...moreAbsolutely stellar!
Ryan Winfield does not need my review - hundreds of us are already singing him praises - but I just don't want to wrap up my reading without leaving at least a comment for the author. Two words: absolutely stellar. Congratulations to the author for a raw, gritty, bloody, ravaging tale. I'm in awe, and he just won a fan in me. My best wishes to the author; thank you for gifting us with your words. Namaste! (less)
John W. Schouten created a perfectly plausible story of a young American student of anthropology, Sam Young, caught in the midst of a perilous leftist...moreJohn W. Schouten created a perfectly plausible story of a young American student of anthropology, Sam Young, caught in the midst of a perilous leftist revolution in Peru. Sam, out of sorts in his hometown in Oregon, is searching (as many of us are in our twenties and beyond) for some sort of hinge and meaning to his life after his father's death. Sam drops out of med school and his volunteer work in a small clinic catering to Central and South American migrant workers inspires him to uproot his entire existence and move to a small town in Peru. What is certain is that Sam gets much more than he could ever imagine once he lands in Lima, and later in smaller mountain villages, and begins to peel away at the complex layers of politics and society in 1980s Peru.
Schouten describes the ravages of the local guerrilla, a Communist group called Camino Rojo or Red Road (loosely translated) which is, I think, based on the very real Sendero Luminoso that terrorized the South American nation for years in the late 70s through the 90s. As Sam meets the different and mesmerizing secondary characters of "Notes from the Lightning God", the reader is pulled into the bloody fight for social equality and one wonders, more than once, who the 'bad' guys are in Schouten's tale. Is it the rich upper class, shrouded in corruption and opportunity, the two elusive women Sam is attracted to, the Peruvian army, or the idealistic and brutal Camino Rojo? Sam is at times a demi-god, a not-so-innocent gringo observer, a logger of local history, a student of real life in Latin America in the mid-80s and a very compelling character that, in spite of the hardships of his situations, moves the story along with bewitching naivete, bravery and compassion.
As a Latina, I really appreciated the flawless depiction of life in Peru in a markedly difficult period in history, and the perfect insertion of Spanish into the English narrative. The book is a poetic, genial thriller. Mr. Schouten has written an amazing novel, and I can only hope he graces his readers with many, many other books to come. Bravo, Senor Schouten! (less)
I read "Relative Karma" a little while ago, and I meant to rate it earlier, but for one reason or another I didn't get to it sooner. I was going throu...moreI read "Relative Karma" a little while ago, and I meant to rate it earlier, but for one reason or another I didn't get to it sooner. I was going through my Kindle two weeks ago and decided to re-read the book, and go over my earlier notes. I'm afraid of writing too much and revealing the story, so I'll summarize my impressions as best as I can without offering any spoilers.
Mr. Reaves is intimately ensconced with the definition of the word "suspense". His characters' inner conversations, ruminations, fears and regrets are flawless and revealing. His plot's twists and turns are subtle, so that you keep turning the pages, searching for a resolution and playing an endless guessing game with the author. I did not win.
"Relative Karma" and "Relative Sanity" are two stellar novels by an author I will continue to follow closely. Both are amazing reads - enjoy them!
Martin Reaves has created a dark, cold, muddy world that I was glad and fortunate to be enmeshed in. This is a book I can categorize, lightly, as scar...moreMartin Reaves has created a dark, cold, muddy world that I was glad and fortunate to be enmeshed in. This is a book I can categorize, lightly, as scary. Not scary as in cheap thrills and the generically supernatural. Scary as in the unknown passages of minds slipping away from reality, of the twists in life that create havoc in the human psyche, of stories and characters so plausible that one wonders, with understandable fright, what would happen to our relatively normal lives if fate slapped us a little too hard.
Alex Tinkham and Nick Grimmer are best friends and partners in their detective work. They're brought in to investigate a case I can't describe without giving away the plot, and then their stories are crossed with other incredibly memorable characters' in such an artistic, clever way that I wondered, page after page after page, where the plot was going and how it would unfold. And wow, how it did!
It's been a very, very long time since I've allowed myself to read a thriller of this nature simply because I don't enjoy having scary thoughts in my mind. I gave up superficial fare a long time ago, but I am so glad I picked up a book by an author who is so supremely talented that I can only hope more people flock to his books and enjoy them as much as I am. I bought his other book, "Relative Karma", nanoseconds after I finished "Relative Sanity". I haven't been as involved in something dark since Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" a couple of years back and the only reason I compare these two books is because Brown also has a knack for putting his characters and readers in uncomfortable, perilous places and yet you love every second of that difficult flight. I enjoyed this book just as much, if not so much more, than Brown's. This is a book I wish I could write: a mix of literary fiction, thriller and mystery; something as difficult to categorize and describe as I am sure it was to write. But all descriptions and words aside, the bottom line is an expertly written, highly entertaining novel by an author I am very happy to follow closely. I look forward to reading "Relative Karma", and I recommend "Relative Sanity" with the awe and satisfaction of having read something that's simply quite brilliant. Kudos to Mr. Reaves for his amazing work - in a nutshell, what a good, good book!!(less)