Aaron Briggs's Reviews > A Fraction of the Whole

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
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Oct 13, 2009

really liked it
Read from August 24 to 31, 2010

Fantastic first novel and a really great read. I found this based on a recommendation and that recommendation turned out to be spot on (thanks, Chris).

"A Fraction of the Whole" benefits from being wildly unrestrained -- Toltz is enviably imaginative in the way he constructs his characters and the only-slightly-unbelievable events that shape them. It's ruminative, but it never takes a breath to really ruminate. In fact, the whole novel skips along at a whiplash pace from one scenario to another that, upon recounting it to someone, would have to be strung together with hours worth of "and then...and then...and then" but works within the world he's created.

It all holds together because Toltz is a sharp writer with a gift for simile. He uses disparate comparison very frequently -- maybe more than most writer's workshops would advise -- but I can't fault him because almost everyone was spot on insightful, unexpected, or underline-worthy. I want to steal this dude's ability to write similes that consistently border on genius.

While it worked for me I admit it might not work for everyone -- you have to be willing to dislike and distrust, well, ALL of your characters and you have to willing to plumb the depths of a tangled mess of BIG themese, including death, celebrity, religion, nationalism, nepotism, nihilism, sex, crime, money, and philosophy. And tattoos. And sports. And hedge mazes. It's rarely positive but never outright bleak -- maybe a bit of gallows humor -- and it ends unresolved (which I read as an ultimately uplifting ending). Like I said, it's unrestrained. If that appeals to you, I recommend it highly.

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