Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bad Puppy! Bad Puppy!

I feel a need to apologize for selecting An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity as this month's selection.  Of all the books we've read over the past year, it definitely ranks among my least favorite. 

I'm a huge fan of the unreliable narrator trope, particularly when it's used to present a point-of-view character who isn't nearly as smart as the reader.  One of my all time favorite books is Ring Lardner's You Know Me Al, that makes a tremendous amount of hay out of this idea.  Lardner makes it work by using a deft touch and a character who is actually and in point of fact dumb.  In An Equation, most of the characters are presented as smart in one way or another, and then behave in ways that don't fit with an actually intelligent person.  They ignore obvious social cues, never think to do obvious actions, and generally make a hash of everything.

Add to that the issue that all of major characters are unlikable, and most of the minor characters as well.  Every single one is so caught up in their own miserable lives they can't stop and think for a moment.  They use and abuse everyone around them in ways that make no sense.  They have inflated senses of self-import, they blunder through the plot, they all remind me of Ignatius P. Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces, and I don't like spending time with any of them.  These are the sorts of people that I avoid like the plague in real life, and if it wasn't for my guilt for inflicting them on my fellow Contributors, I'd have - as Nathan so aptly puts it - walled this book a dozen chapters ago.

(I'm only three-quarters of the way through this book after three weeks of effort, and keep getting distracted by other things to read.  For example, there's this interesting book in my queue called Dangerous Gamers that I really want to get to soon.)

It's also strange how the fantastical parts of the story feel so bolted on.  It's the tale of Death losing his appointment calendar and the machinations of those who would use that knowledge for power and money.  Yet somehow, it feels like an Oprah style workplace drama novel.  It's frankly surprising to me that this wasn't a stronger contender for a Hugo, given how very much it feel like one of the novelettes that were nominated this year.

The last quarter of this books is going to take some time and effort for me to get through, but I'll soldier on and let our faithful readers know whether or not Mulrooney pulls a last minute save out of his hat.


  1. Hmmm *tries to think something intelligent and interesting to say but fails*

    I dunno, I like books that are outside our comfort zones. I haven't read much of it yet, though; I have been busy with other stuff.

  2. I guess this explains why I haven't seen anyone other than you guys discussing this book.

  3. The characters are indeed unlikable as all get out, and Gormley goes down as the most irritating character I think I've ever read. Sometimes a satirist can be too hard on his own people, and overshoot his mark. I'll admit that I poked through the first two thirds of it. Without giving spoilers, I'll say this. As maddening as the characters were, I found that I really just plain wanted to see how Mulrooney was going to resolve this mess. And resolve it he does. (of course) And the ending of the book did deliver. The final exchange between Cooper and *** blind sided me like few things I've ever read. I'm still not quite sure how to describe it. But it was very strangely moving.


  4. Well I liked it. It's awkward and funny. I actually like how Cooper's obliviousness gives him a kind of courage he wouldn't normally have if he actually realized the disdain others feel for him. As for the unlikableness of everyone, the general depravity of the characters explains why they all seem to end up in hell. It wouldn't make sense for good people to get sent there.

  5. This is the only book I have seen you guys read that I ha e never heard of.

  6. This is the only book I have seen you guys read that I ha e never heard of.