Cameron's Reviews > The Lazarus Project

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon
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Mar 13, 12

Read in March, 2012

I often think that many critics give the book (or movie, in many more familiar cases) a good review because it is something they are supposed to do. You don't want to be known as the critic who turned his nose up at the Latvian drama about a gay, existentialist teen trying to survive the drab, grim reality of life in a post-communist regime, would you? What about the Paraguayan masterpiece about the girl that left that life of street gangs to become a school teacher that was later murdered by street gangs. Well, you better give it a review, praising it for its "honesty" and "integrity". If all else fails, try to pigeon-hole it into a category that will make it seem like you totally got it on a different level than everyone else.

In my experience, The Lazarus Project is just such a book. It had to be good. So many people were saying such good things. It was nominated for a National Book Award, and they don't just hand those things out to any old James Patterson. With excitement, I started reading, and reading, and reading and before I knew it, I was in the Chariots of Fire of novels and I wanted to get out as soon as possible.

The idea for a decent book is there—a Bosnian man discovers his own identity while researching the historical account of an immigrant murdered by a police sergeant in Chicago. Yet, so many elements are missing that there is little left to bring it all cohesively together. It weaves in and out of the two stories; the first being an over-fictionalized and over-dramatized retelling of the after-effects of the immigrant's murder and the second being the on-the-road story of the writer aimlessly winding his way through Eastern Europe. Story A is poorly told to the point of being very uninteresting. Story B is told in a stream-of-consciousness style that comes off as smug and utterly confusing when it comes to advancing the plot.

There is so much about this book that is not true from the reviews. It isn't a "tour-de-force" as I read in one review. It also isn't, as I read in another, "a page-turner" unless you are turning the pages without reading them just to see how many more pages you have left to get through. It is not a comedy as one review ridiculously put it. Sure, some characters tell jokes to each other. But they are jokes that are constructed in an Eastern-European mindset, and something that makes no sense to someone who hasn't had to stand in a breadline. There is no comedy in this, however "wryly-drawn" as one review said.

It could have used a better editor. It could have used a better plot. It also could have used some more honest reviews. Like this one. Which you should trust. Really. Because I totally hated that one Latvian movie.
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message 1: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Heywood i like honest reviews like this. Really makes me know if I want to read a book or not.


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