When I picked this up to start reading, I didn't realize it was an epistolary novel. Not generally my favorite form of literature. But somehow this imWhen I picked this up to start reading, I didn't realize it was an epistolary novel. Not generally my favorite form of literature. But somehow this immediately took hold, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A large part, I think, is the characters. Frances and Bernard are exactly the sort of people I would love to engage with in this kind of long-term philosophical exchange. Based very loosely on Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, these characters delight in sharing all manner of philosophy, theology, wit, and well-written correspondence that is exactly the kind of thing I'd get into myself. I have, in fact, had a few such epistolary acquaintances over the years, and this reminded me of the best of those times.
So it drew me right in. And these characters and their writings kept me engaged throughout the twists and turns of their lives. Really a delightful and engaging read....more
I could have given this book the full five-star rating, and I still wonder if I'm being a little too hard on it. It's a wonderful book, well-written,I could have given this book the full five-star rating, and I still wonder if I'm being a little too hard on it. It's a wonderful book, well-written, gripping storyline, which kept my interest throughout -- except when it didn't. Its main drawback, I found, is something it has in common with other multi-POV narratives I've read; some characters just aren't as interesting as others.
Actually, this book doesn't just change its POV character every so often -- it also jumps ahead decades at a time. Each new section drops you into a whole new story: new characters, new time period, new setting, new circumstances. Only gradually does it start to tie it back to previous sections, and to the larger narrative. And most of the time it works fabulously. It's only a few instances where my interest started to lag, though even then the connection to the larger narrative kept me plodding on.
Over all, a very engaging read despite a few slow moments....more
This might be one of the most delightfully optimistic books I've read in a long time. The story plants itself in modern-day Silicone Valley, with a prThis might be one of the most delightfully optimistic books I've read in a long time. The story plants itself in modern-day Silicone Valley, with a protagonist who finds himself working in a quirky old used-book store. Throw in some ancient cults and secret societies, and just the right amount of not taking anything too seriously, and you've got an enjoyable little read. It's neither fantasy nor science-fiction, but definitely dabbles in both. The narrator has the habit of framing everything in terms of the epic fantasy books he loves so much, and the whole thing has a kind of humanistic optimism that reminds me of Roddenberry's original Star Trek series. Ultimately it's the story of several people of disparate interests and from varied walks of life, all pooling their own unique talents toward a single goal....more
There is a lot to like in this book. I enjoyed the characters, I liked how it alternated between outer-space adventure and a kind of futuristic noir-lThere is a lot to like in this book. I enjoyed the characters, I liked how it alternated between outer-space adventure and a kind of futuristic noir-lite (I think it was going for full-on futuristic noir but never quite got dark enough. So, noir-lite.)
It's only in the middle section that the book loses a star or so in my rating here. The two point-of-view characters come together and the whole thing switches into a kind of action-adventure mode and becomes a lot less interesting. And when the alien menace actually manifests itself, it does so in one of the less interesting, more overused tropes out there.
It gets much better by the end. So the book ends up being like an inside-out Oreo -- a bit of dry, stale cookie sandwiched in the middle of creamy filling layers. Still very enjoyable, but not as good as it might have been....more
This is the second Bill Pronzini book I've taken out of the library. The first -- I think it was Betrayers was a really enjoyable, tightly written mysThis is the second Bill Pronzini book I've taken out of the library. The first -- I think it was Betrayers was a really enjoyable, tightly written mystery/thriller that left me wanting to read more.
The book was part of Pronzini's "Nameless Detective Agency" series. It's one of the only times I've seen detective literature deal with an agency of several detectives instead of the traditional solitary private-dick. Different chapters take different detectives as their point-of-view character, sometimes weaving back and forth between different cases that have little or nothing to do with each other. So the book came out feeling like a really well-written television serial, the kind that pulls you in and makes you want to keep watching.
Unfortunately, Femme seems to be where the series jumps the shark. It's shorter. It only focuses on two point-of-view characters, who are both working the same case -- a case either one of them should have been able to handle on his own. It builds up a lot at the beginning but never quite delivers on its promises.
The previous book I'd read was good enough that I'll give Pronzini, and his "Nameless Detective" series, another chance. But if I'd started with Femme, I can't say that I would have....more
A very good little story, in many ways typical of Gaiman as it inhabits a realm somewhere between dream and fairy-tale. Not the Disneyfied fairy-talesA very good little story, in many ways typical of Gaiman as it inhabits a realm somewhere between dream and fairy-tale. Not the Disneyfied fairy-tales we're more used to, but the darker stories from a time when people could still admit just how scary a place the world can be. This is a more intimate tale than other Gaiman books I've read, and ultimately more satisfying....more
Sherman Alixie is always a great read, and his short stories are particularly where he shines. The only thing keeping this from being a full-on five sSherman Alixie is always a great read, and his short stories are particularly where he shines. The only thing keeping this from being a full-on five stars is that most of the stories in this book were previously published in other books of his, most of which I own and can re-read any time I want anyway.
Still, I haven't re-read any of them quite as recently as I probably should have, and so this new collection of (mostly) old stories did serve to remind me of why I bothered to buy those other books in the first place. ...more