Edward Rathke's Reviews > We Are Oblivion

We Are Oblivion by Michael Sonbert
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Jul 01, 11


I will preface this review by saying this: I only read the first six chapters online in the free e-book sample and that is why it earned the extra star.

I knew nothing about the author coming into this except that it was his second novel and he has some rather glowing reviews and it seemed that I kept hearing about this book from people. So I thought I'd look at it.

Reviews laud the writing, which baffles me. I found myself cringing at times, not because of the disgusting things being portrayed [which I'll get to], but because of the hamfisted characerisation and voice. There's no subtlety to the prose, no room to let the reader breathe, no chances to let the reader wonder, try to sort out the details. Rather, answers are shoved at the reader in a questions and answer format. For example:

She stares at me like I did something terribly wrong so I only look at her out of the corner of my eye, like she is the master and I’m the dog and I just shit on the rug. And then she flicks me in my head and says, “Do you remember what the doctor said?”
“No.”
“Of course you don’t. Listen, your brain is damaged. You have to be careful. You can’t do a lot of things that other people do. And you especially can’t fight with people. If you get hit back…”
“…I didn’t get hit back.”
“Yeah but you could.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” I whisper under my breath, looking down at my bloody fists, wondering where that act of violence, that surge of power came from.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing.”
She stares at me. Her eyes are oil. Her lashes, black spider-webs.
“What happened to me?” I ask. “How did I get like this?”
“Like what?”
“Like this,” I say. “Dumb…or…not able to remember. Like this,” I say, pointing at my entire being from top to bottom.
She shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter. I think you’re perfect…just the way you are.” She smiles. I don’t say anything. “As long as you don’t get hit in the head. As long as you stay just like this. Okay?”
“Okay.”
Her face turns from smiling to serious and she says, “He really was a jerk.”
I smile and nod towards her. “Yeah.”

I believe that's rather representative of the prose here and it made me cringe, in all honesty.

And so it continues in this heavyhanded manner, but I pushed forth because there must be something to the praise. When I reached the thirty page mark, which is about 1/5th of the book, and the end of the free sample, I was rather shocked. Not for any of the content, but because of how I had been sorely misled by reviewers, some of whom I respect.

It's rather disgusting, really, and not at all in the way Henry Miller or William S Burroughs write, as one reviewer commented, possibly due to a misunderstanding of who Miller and Burroughs were. I see no point to the disgusting and misogynistic aspects, which makes them pornographic. Violence for violence's sake, sexual debasement for its own sake. Their is no humanity in the female character, which is maybe the point, but it's a point that should never be strived for.

The characters are of little interest, and, after reading the synopsis, there's little left to the imagination. The narrator appears to have head trauma from boxing and, by being hit in the head, he accidentally kind of hops through time, presumably [which reminds me of the Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher]. I piece this together because the first instance of time travel happens shortly after he gets hit in the head. The woman he calls Fancy, who is a pregnant nihilistic whore with an infected vagina, I assume, is a wholly imagined character by our narrator, which explains her ability to travel through time with him, as well as her vapid characterisation, as our narrator's rather out of it, to put it a certain way.

Of course, I did not finish the book and felt absolutely no desire to, so I could likely be wrong about the last paragraph, which is pure conjecture, and I hope I am, because it would only go to show how obvious the writing is.

The writing simple deserves one star, but, owing to the fact that I did not finish the novel, I thought it deserved at least one more star, because maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the next page changes everything and makes this book really something special, but I doubt it.

What I would recommend the author do is remove the tells, pull out everything that makes it obvious. Give the dialogue tension by not answering questions, by making them talk the way people talk in the real world. Verisimilitude is important, especially if you're going to try to break down the walls of reality, time, and space. There are some interesting metaphors in here, but many read clumsily. I liked some of the repetition, an interesting way to characterise the narrator and his mental predicament, but, by and large, the prose is lazy and easy. Too many shortcuts and not enough faith in the reader.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Colin McKay Miller This is how long your reviews are for samples? Ha.


Edward Rathke Ha, well, I felt that the other reviews were dishonest and unfair, so I didn't want to just click a star rating and be done with it. I wanted to be honest.


Colin McKay Miller I feel you, but I can usually spot when it's nothing but friends' reviews. I really don't know anyone who is fooled by that tactic.


Gordon It's a waste of everyone's time to review books you haven't read. Forget the stars, just mark it as "didn't finish" and be done with it. Though I doubt you will actually like it, the third act does make you see what came before in a different light.


Colin McKay Miller Not so sure if I agree with you there, G. While I tag a book as "abandoned," often the reason why I abandon the book is worthy of a review.


Colin McKay Miller Made it nine chapters then abandoned it, Eddy.


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