Honestly, this book would have been a five-star read were it not for the highly experimental "Especially Heinous," a novelette in the middle of the boHonestly, this book would have been a five-star read were it not for the highly experimental "Especially Heinous," a novelette in the middle of the book that grinds things to a jarring halt. This collection contains some of the best short fiction I've read this year—"Inventory," "Real Women Have Bodies," and "Eight Bites" are gut wrenching, all—but the aforementioned Law and Order: SVU-inspired novelette is a startling and ineffective tonal shift. Its biggest issue, truly, is placement—in the centre as it is, "Especially Heinous" acts like a faulty fulcrum around which things never quite spin as they're supposed to, not after the fact. The first half of the book is propulsive and captivating, and the author is able to regain much of this footing with the last run of stories, but the placement of "Especially Heinous" right in the middle of things is a dramatic momentum killer. It's a little like going out for a run and then, once you've established a good pace, you hit a gap in the pavement and slam your knees into the ground. You're able to get yourself home after the fact, but you have to hobble to get there....more
Absolutely captivating, utterly horrifying—both impossible to put down and goddamn difficult to return to. This is a book that I want to recommend toAbsolutely captivating, utterly horrifying—both impossible to put down and goddamn difficult to return to. This is a book that I want to recommend to so many, but alongside a list of potential triggers, because the descriptive work is stomach-churning in its detail and veracity. Truthfully, I can't think of a more apt descriptor for this book, and all of Gay's writing, than "unflinching."...more
I... I quite despise this book, actually. I've tried to make it through, but this is the second "classic" I've put down in a row without finishing (anI... I quite despise this book, actually. I've tried to make it through, but this is the second "classic" I've put down in a row without finishing (and only the fourth or fifth book I've put down unfinished over the past decade). I made it about 300 pages, but it's been like pulling teeth. First, it's absurdly overwritten, yet somehow there's almost no sense of individual character personalities, or of the physical and social world surrounding them—there's a frigging epidemic going on, yet there's no palpable sense of dread, no feeling that anything has any weight or presence beyond what we're told.
And that's at the crux of the book's problems for me: we're told far, far more than we're shown. The end result of which is a frighteningly dull book that I cannot for the life of me want to finish, and that's a feat in and of itself. That, and there's so much repetition of cliffhanger moments, of Dunworthy almost being told something worthwhile but then having it held off for another chapter... this book's abundance is in attempted manufactured tension and not at all in its characters or their motivations.
Given the sheer number of people whose taste I respect that recommended this book to me... yeah, I'm disappointed. But in the end, I haven't experienced anything in this book to make me care about the characters, their plight, or their world....more