Remi's Reviews > SON COMPLEX

SON COMPLEX by Kris Williamson
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it was amazing

Son Complex by Kris Williamson is a fascinating read that got me thinking about a lot of things talked about in the book. It covers so many social issues relevant to Malaysia and does it seamlessly. The writing is very easy to understand and the story moves forward at a good speed. I like personal journey stories and found this to be a unique one that hasn't been done hundreds of times in movies and other novels. Kudos for originality!

By the middle of the novel, it became obvious that this is a story where the characters take center stage and the plot is just used to carry them from the first page to the last page. Novels like this can only work if the characters are strong and interesting. Overall I think Kris Williamson does a good job in his character writing.

Aaron, the main character, is a 23-year-old American who comes across as very naïve from the first page. But he is humble and a likeable person. I wanted for him to succeed on his journey. I cheered for him and cried for him through his ups and downs. It is precisely his fresh observations that makes this story something interesting. Kris Williamson must have spent a lot of time living in Malaysia to be able to tell this type of story.

The plot starts straight away. Aaron lands in Kuala Lumpur and goes to the house of Nasri, who he thinks is his long-lost father based on correspondence that his dead mother wrote several decades earlier. Nasri's character could have been developed more--for me--but underneath the "wealthy businessman with skeletons in the closet" façade, I could see that he really cared for Nora (Aaron's mother). He is shocked at first, but slowly warms up to the idea of Aaron as his son as the novel progresses. This side journey for Nasri, again, I thought could have been expanded. I wanted to read more. Maybe more stories from his youth with Nora too.

But Nasri has a wife (Datin) and a son (Iskandar). For me these two characters were an interesting contrast. Datin plays the role of village-girl-who-married-well-and-makes-sure-everyone-knows-it and plays it well. She is the type of character that you roll your eyes at in novels, on TV, or in real life. But I always like reading about these types--especially when something bad happens to them! But I was surprised that at the end of the novel, of course something bad happens, and Datin is involved, but my reaction surprised me. I don't want to tell too much more here to ruin it for anyone who has not read it yet...but it was a real shock. As it turns out, Datin and Aaron have a lot in common that doesn't become clear until the very end.

Iskandar was a cool character. For a young man, he is very mature. I found a lot of quotes from him that I liked. He is a rebel against his parents--as a teen, who isn't?--but he is smart about it. He has a secret life which made some interesting points on class differences in Malaysia. For all the stereotypical (and sometimes funny) high class hullabaloo that Datin represents for most of the novel, Iskandar breaks that mold completely. I would love to see a novel with him as the main character.

Even though this novel places importance on its characters above a winding plot, there are not many characters in total. Aside from Aaron, Nasri, Datin, and Iskandar, there are only a few secondary characters. Some, like the taxi driver in Ch.1 and Sundari's family, are so funny that I was laughing out loud. Others, like Iskandar's biker friends, added some spice into the story. That reminds me. Sundari! She was a very likeable character at first. Very hippity-hoppity and scatterbrained. But she has a dark side as well. As her role in Aaron's life changed, I got sucked into the story even more. She has a few good quotes as well. I did want more page time for when she and Aaron go back to her family's house. I thought that was too quick.

What I liked the most about this novel is even though some characters look like stereotypes, they are actually quite deep. I found myself thinking about Nasri's summer-love with Nora in the 1980s and what it would have meant for him to be faced with his love child almost 25 years later. I also wondered if I would have the courage to do what Aaron did. Fly off to some irrelevant third-world country to look for his father with only a handful of clues to get him started. That's drive! But for me, the main part of Aaron's journey really did not begin until the last few pages of the novel, where he is reflecting on his life and what he learned about his mother's life. Interesting. It was as if he developed in a complete circle after finishing his adventure.

I loved the fact the ending isn't happy or sad. It is what it is. And I could really get into the characters. Think about their actions and words. What I would do if it were me in their shoes. Aaron's personal development from start to finish was different from what I had expected to read. I appreciated that I could read the stories of the characters without needing to be told what their stories were and everything imaginable about their lives. There is just enough information offered to create good character profiles.

For me, this novel is a win. Kudos to Kris Williamson!


Recommended to readers who like deep characters but also enjoy a good laugh. Readers interested in the social makeup of Malaysia should like this as well. Not recommended to readers who like for every imaginable detail to be explained or those who need a plot that is action-packed on every page. I am keeping my copy and will definitely have another read through it at some point.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 24, 2013 – Shelved

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