Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bad Cop, Bad!
"The Night Gardener"
by George Pelecanos

I forget where I was read about this book, but a thousand times I wish I did, because I'm never taking that advice again. Maybe if I had done some research, I would have found that this book was not up my alley.

Look, I like mysteries, I enjoy cop dramas and the theme that cops and criminals are similar but for a legality and rules. None of that's here.

The writing's worse than pulpy bestseller drama, and there is barely any suspense to drive the story. It drags. I only finished it because I felt obligated, and honestly I kept reading because I couldn't let go of the hope that something more interesting would happen. It had to.

Nope. Alright, then, fine, I give up. Novels like this make me question satisfaction. Will I ever make it through my neverending list of books I want to read? A book is an investment, which makes it so thoroughly depressing when a book isn't at least fun.

The story's simple, not that you're interested if I've tainted you correctly. Three children whose first names are spelled the same backwards as forwards (i.e. "Asa") have been murdered. Fifteen years later, with the case still unsolved, another kid has been killed whose name is a palindrome, and the cops that worked the unsolved case are brought together with mixed emotions and old tensions. And...

Nothing happens! The mysteries fizzle out, the characters quickly become unbelievable and tiring, and the subplots are boring. Have I said enough? I feel bad badgering this book any further. I should, but I won't.

And the cover isn't all that great either, in retrospect.

Around the World
"Only Revolutions"
by Mark Z. Danielewski

Sam and Hailey and Hailey and Sam. Forever and never. Now and always.

Or so it goes from the looks of this clustered book full of wordplay and colors and just plain pizazz. Only Revolutions is the kind of book you read and say, "What the flip?", and then you flip it and read more.

Record scratch. Sam and Hailey, eternally sixteen, road-tripping from city to city in an ever-changing cast of cars and situations that seem to blend together so fast and easily that it's much closer to a dream than anything, are in love. And their love is spilled all over these pages in unique and creative ways, all contributing to Danielewski's title, only revolutions.

First, the book itself, you read eight pages (the vertical symbol of infinity) and then flip the book and read eight pages from the other side. Each half tells a story, the flips intersect at page 180 (the hardbound book is 360 pages, or one full revolution), and the end of the book could easily lead back into the beginning, culminating in a swirling hulk of experimental fiction that is literally quite dizzying. The first letter of each chapter, combined, spells out "Sam and Hailey and Sam and Hailey..." and so on. Another revolution.

The writing is fresh and invigorating, but it does become a little much and after a while, the journey starts to feel repetitive (coincidence? probably not). Only Revolutions is actually one long poem, and it seems to work better as spoken word than silent reading, because the words spoken aloud have a much different effect than when they ring by in your head. If you're into spoken word, then maybe the audio book, the reader handpicked by Danielewski, would be of interest.

Ultimately, I'm on the fence about what to say about this book. It's a fun read and the conception is more than interesting, but it starts to wind down at a certain point and the fun becomes in reaching some solid ground, which never happens. I'd recommend it, but I prefer his earlier House of Leaves, with the experimental fiction contributing to the feel and pace of the story, a tad bit more...

I say judge for yourself, the cover's cool anyway. And if you're into forums, this author has a huge cult following.