I'm not a fan of Jane Austen. Archaic courtship rituals and Regency attire just don't butter my skillet, and aside from Northanger Abbey (a delightful send-up of Gothic novels), I haven't enjoyed any of her work. Frankly, I read P.D. James's Death Comes to Pemberley solely because homicide and Jane Austen seemed like a damn good combination.
Wandering Coyote has already written an excellent review of this book, so I'll restrict myself to the main beef I had with this "mystery" novel. Yes, the characters are about as interesting as lettuce, and the pace is sluggish, and you have to suffer through a rehash of Pride and Prejudice. But the real problem is this...
The key questions:
Who slaughtered a man in the forest near Pemberley? How did they do it? And why?
The questions that are actually asked:
Whatever will the neighbours think?
Are there enough savoury tarts to satisfy Sir So-and-so and Viscount Such-and-such?
Shall we take the the coach, the carriage, the barouche, or perhaps a hackney chaise?
It's time to pack away the winter blahs, 'cause I'm back to school tomorrow for winter term. Aaaand... we have a new addition to the household! Her name is Becky, though she already has quite a few nicknames. She's a 3-year-old who isn't crazy about other cats, but loves teh hoomins.
Hoping this year will be one full of cat cuddles, doodles, good grades, new opportunities, and new friends. Happy 2014, everyone!
We'll be having lunch at the new craft beer joint in the neighbourhood this afternoon. Tomorrow night we'll be having dinner there with David and Sarah, before heading down the street for a karaoke get-together. Then we'll stop off at Mary-Ellen's annual shindig just to say hi. Our buddy Alan will be here for Christmas Eve soup, as usual, and Christmas day dinner will be spent with David and Sarah and Sarah's parents. Gonna be a busy week, but I'll coming home to my sweet little cat every night.
Just kidding. Alan and Richard had a falling-out over whether or not Omar Khadr's lawyer deserves an award, and our friendship of 13 years is over. I will not be speaking to him or seeing him ever again, I suppose.
David and Sarah did not respond to our dinner invitation. We have not been invited for Christmas dinner.
There will be no karaoke. Richard doesn't trust the host. I lied to Mary-Ellen and told her I can't make it, as I do every year, because she only invites me. I certainly would never ask Richard to drop me off at a party to which he hasn't been invited, or take a cab to a party while he sits home alone.
There is no cat. Maybe in the new year.
2009: My grandmother tells me over the phone, "Grandpa can't talk right now. You know how he is on the phone, can't hear a thing."
2010: My grandmother says, "Grandpa can't talk. He's tired, and you know how he is on the phone. He can't hear!"
2011: Grandma says, "I'd put Grandpa on the phone, but he wouldn't be able to hear you."
2012: My grandmother goes into a nursing home after Alzheimer's renders her unable to live at home any longer. Soon, she remembers no one in the family, including her husband. He continues to visit her everyday, but she doesn't recognize him. My Grandpa occasionally complains to my mother that I don't call (I write, and send cards instead). He does not call me. Once. In fact, my grandparents stopped calling me years ago due to their pathological aversion to answering machines (I called them one-two times a month until Grandma went into the nursing home).
2013: I learn that my Grandpa has a girlfriend. They talk on the phone several hours a day.
I decided to lift my personal ban on Dean Koontz novels when this list told me his 77 Shadow Street is a quality read. Every neuron in my brain started screaming as I slid the book off a shelf at Coles. I'm not sure exactly what they were trying to say, because neurons can't talk, but it was probably something like
Struggling not to twitch, I paid for the book and took it home, handling it much like one should deal with plutonium. I was really fighting my body on this one. My sick, deluded brain was reassuring me, "It will be better this time! This is totally not Phantoms! Koontz just gets better and better with age! He's practically Peter Straub these days!" But my physical instinct was still to carry this thing to the nearest high bridge (in a tightly sealed container, of course) and lob it into the river with my all my strength.
This conflict made for an interesting reading experience. I may have looked calm as I sat in my chair, reading the first nine chapters, but on the inside my internal organs were threatening to mutiny.
So, what's wrong with 77 Shadow Street? Well, what's wrong with every other Dean Koontz novel? Let's review:
1. There's absolutely nothing new here. A dreamhouse built on cursed ground? The Shining, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist. Mysterious deaths among the construction crew that built it? Rose Red. The house drives people crazy? The Shining and Amityville again. Not one original thought exists in the pages of this book. 2. Characters? What characters? Koontz's characters are the flattest, least memorable people in the realm of pop fiction. To call them stock characters would be an insult to stock characters. We have an elderly man who pieces together the grim history of the mansion (*cough*Mary Sue*cough*). We have a divorced country songwriter who is - not even joking here - a coalminer's daughter. Then there's a somewhat traumatized Iraq vet, an investment banker, and...oh, who cares? By the third or fourth chapter, I wanted them all to get eaten by the elevator, like the drunk ex-politician was in the first chapter. Just die already. 3. Not scary. Good horror fiction is about subtlety. The masters start out slow and build up to a sustained eeriness that explodes into terror. Koontz starts out with explosions, so the rest of the book is just some fizzing and spluttering. It's like watching an action movie backwards.
To make matters worse, Koontz's publisher decided to get all gimmicky with this book, and they created a ridiculous "immersive experience" that is basically just a hidden-objects game. In other words, Koontz is so certain you won't feel his story that he has to show you pictures of it.
Nine chapters in, my body finally defeated my brain. I couldn't handle the nausea, the twitching, or the continuous yawning for one more minute, and I stopped reading. I haven't pitched the book into a body of water yet, but I will be marching it down to the used bookstore at the earliest opportunity. In a sealed container, of course.
As some of you know from Facebook, I'm preparing to go back to school soon. Hence, not much time for blogging. But right now it's full-on winter, and I think it's about time to dip into the massive stack of fiction I've been hoarding for blizzardy days. Yesterday I snagged the second-to-newest House of Night book and A Lion Among Men at a secondhand bookstore. I also have the Gormenghast trilogy, a pile of Peter Straub novels, Mockingjay, and the new reprint of John Crowley's Little, Big.
On the nonfiction front, there's Errol Morris's book about the MacDonald murder case, and two books about the Meredith Kircher case.
I live in the land of Estoty with my sweetie, Richard, and our cat. I'm one of those mature (thirtysomething) students you see in the halls, the ones who make you think, "Well good for her, she hasn't given up on life yet, although she probably should."
My goal: to become a lawyer
"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom." - Albert Einstein