Lea's Reviews > Enigmatic Pilot: A Tall Tale Too True

Enigmatic Pilot by Kris Saknussemm
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Jan 26, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: acquired-2011, bizarro, books-i-own, love-the-cover, read-2012, reviews
Read from January 20 to 26, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

I'm not even sure where to begin with this one . . . There are a lot of wonderful and intriguing ideas here, but just too many problems for me to get past.

Let's start with the positives:

The setting is interesting, a sort of alternative old-west that is close enough to read as genuine history -- but just try looking up some of the people and incidents mentioned and you'll quickly see that the author has well and truly convinced you to accept fiction as fact.

Most of the characters -- while not likable, necessarily -- will keep you reading, as you attempt to see what fate (and the author) has in store for them. Some of the secondary characters are worthy of books of their own. I especially liked the Martian Ambassadors, the Quists, St. Ives, the Professor and his wives, and Fast Fanny.

I also loved the story of Junius Rutherford and his Villa of the Mysteries -- I was really hoping the plot was leading toward resolving that story line. I was very taken with the author's use of this story, re-telling it at the end of the book, with crucial details changed. Sadly, the author never really resolves this issue.

And . . . that's about it.

Oh, I loved the cover.

Now for the negatives:

Apparently this is a sequel of sorts to Zanesville: A Novel, so I should have read that book first. However, the order -- or even their relation to each other -- is in no way made clear. In fact, I only realized my error after reading other reviews.

A big fat UGH for precocious six year old protagonists -- not a favorite at any time for me, but even less so here, where the author insists on this six year old being sexually aware and active. I'm sure there are legions of fans for this book who will insist on this characterization being absolutely necessary, but still -- Ick.

The "Gullah" accent spoken (and written) phonetically by Rapture -- the sexually precocious Lloyd's mother. This was difficult to read or understand, and I'm sure I missed most of what she was supposed to be saying. I'm as much a fan of dialect writing as I am of precocious child protagonists, as in not at all.

As bad as the above was, though, the very worst was the character of Hattie, who shows up about two thirds of the way through the book. Thirteen and a runaway slave, the author has subjected this character to all manner of torture -- including an apparent sexual mutilation -- at the hands of her white father's wife. Despite this, she is the very embodiment of wisdom, who becomes both mother and lover to Lloyd (remember, he is only SIX). I cannot begin to describe my complete and utter loathing for this character. There is zero depth or reality to Hattie, and I can only assume this is one of those cases where the author describes his own dream partner -- which is another huge dislike for me.

Saknussemm has these amazing ideas and creates these (mostly) wonderful characters -- again, I have to stress, the secondary characters are wonderful, the main ones are just irritating -- but then he just gets bored or something, leaving loose ends every which way. I really don't need everything spoon fed to me -- I enjoy a bit of mystery in a book, and I'm generally okay with having to draw my own conclusions, but that just isn't the case here. It's like the author had these great ideas for plot and character, but just didn't know what to do with them, so he just threw them in then abandoned them -- and I found that extremely frustrating.

Okay, so where does that leave us . . .

I may decide to pick this up and re-read Enigmatic Pilot after I read Zanesville: A Novel, just to see the story in context. If I can bring myself to read the first book after reading this one. Yep, that's how much I disliked this book, and that upsets me even more because there was just so much here that was really different and exciting -- what should have been an amazing book turned out to be empty and, ultimately, meaningless.
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