Саведра's Reviews > The Uncertain Places

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein
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Nov 11, 2011

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Read from November 10 to 17, 2011

A weak beginning had me questioning my choice to read this book. Some of the dialogue on the first few pages made me cringe inwardly, and a few of the metaphors (like a car "arguing" with a gravel driveway) felt forced, as if they were trying too hard to be quirky (this word makes me want to barf) and funny. Fortunately, things improved shortly. There were chapters I found hard to put down, though as you've probably already guessed from this sentence, that wasn't the case with all the chapters. At other times, I felt like I had to push myself to keep reading. This leads me to my main issue with the book, namely its unevenness. The first act, (view spoiler), was pretty compelling for me, while the second act, (view spoiler), sometimes drew me in and sometimes did not. Finally, I feel like I should have liked the third act, (view spoiler), but again it seemed to move in fits and bursts, in terms of my interest. What I enjoyed most were the slow unraveling of the details of (view spoiler) and those sections of the first third of the book where I felt immersed and engaged with the characters, something which unfortunately waned as the book went on.

Side note: What was up with all the German typos? They were rampant to the degree that I almost felt like it had to be intentional, but if that were indeed the case, I'm not sure I could come up with an explanation that wasn't a bit drawn from thin air. (This isn't some sort of "Look how smart I am, I can spot typos in other languages" thing, either - it was truly an onslaught of typos that left me baffled.)

One other note on the structure side of things: I was quite surprised by the degree to which this book mirrored specific plot points of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I mean, (view spoiler). However, I didn't consider this a problem, because the author approaches these strong plot similarities very differently than Susanna Clarke does in JS&MN. I enjoyed this and felt that it enriched the book rather than detracting from it.

Thematically, I liked the treatment of what people are and aren't willing to do to protect themselves from the risks of, well, existing. It seemed to me that the beneficiaries of (view spoiler) were motivated much less by greed than by a desire for freedom from anxiety about the future.

So, to repeat yet again a word I've already said too much, unevenness marred the book, but not to the degree that I feel like I can give it anything less than three stars. (Also, Cory Doctorow said he loved it, and I was surprised I didn't, because I usually really enjoy anything he recommends on BoingBoing.)
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