Saturday, June 10, 2017
Bad Puppy! Bad Puppy!
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.