Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Marvelous Sidebar:

I just finished reading a very nifty book: Nightlife by Rob Thurman.

Now, before I continue, I will state the obvious. I am easily entertained. I am a very simple creature. I enjoy movies ranging in intelligence from Airplane to House of Flying Daggers. But I do draw a line between "entertaining" and "good", and I do have some standards.

For instance, a million dollars couldn't induce me to sit through Battlefield Earth again. *shudder* The stupidity...the horror....

Anyway, so while I am easily entertained, I am not so easily impressed. A minor degree of difference, to be sure, but there all the same. Therefore, when I finished this book in just under four hours--that's cumulative, as I only got to read for an hour at lunch, at which point I began chafing for the rest of the work-day because I'd swallowed the hook, the line, and most of the sinker--I was inordinately impressed to find in the miniscule "about the author" section that this was Ms. Thurman's first novel.


I will tell you nothing of the plot. I'm not so cruel as to ruin a perfectly good book for someone who might wish to read it. I will, however, tell you that just about every bogey known to the fevered nightmares of the talented shows up. And between Caliban and Niko, I don't know who I like more. My beloved sister's vote is firmly in Nik's camp, as Cal's campy lexicon somewhat grated on her nerves, but I kinda like Cal. I like that he grieves for what he thinks his brother has lost because of him.

What he doesn't realize is that Niko wouldn't be himself if Caliban weren't himself. And underneath all of the other stuff to enjoy in this book, I like that tiny, buried gem the most. It's kind of the same reason I actually enjoyed the episodes of Numb3rs I reluctantly watched. It's brothers--one a genius and one a damn good detective--who don't realize that they are who they are because of their brothers.

Plus, there's the fun quirk that the genius in Numb3rs, no matter how elevated above the general public--and his brother--he may be, still has that little brother urge to make his big brother proud. Heh. Human nature is such fun.

Anyway, in my admittedly skewed view, the funnest parts of this book are probably what Sis didn't particularly savvy--the verbal fencing. She enjoyed the book, don't get me wrong, but she admitted that she didn't really like Cal's Voice. I very much did. And while this may not be on Sis's "must read again at any cost" list, she knows me well enough to know it would most certainly be on mine.

Part of it was the bickering with Niko. Those two, Cal and Nik, are veteran snarkers, and they know each other so eerily well that it didn't really take a fully-coherent thought for one to shamelessly enrage the other. Luckily and to their great good fortune, that gift serves them well with others, too, and while I'm not sure those others would agree, that gift 'o snark is damn endearing.

It certainly served to bring a few "friends" to their lonely, dark, perilous and dwindling camp.

But enough of the particulars! Suffice it to say that the characters were ornery enough to want to thwap but likeable enough to mourn over. The situation was just tense enough to require ceaseless page-turning but not enough to overwhelm the sincere and unyielding love between two brothers who have never had anyone but each other. And the writing....

Well, couched seamlessly within the wry insults and brutally descriptive prose lie a few extremely well-turned phrases. Snark, yes, but also passages that made me laugh out loud, that made me go back and read again to savor the free feeling of the wind on Cal's face or the knife of hard-dying love in Nik's heart. Yes, Ms. Thurman may bank on her gift for camp-speak, but I'd bank more on her ability to say in a few lines what some authors can't get across in a page.

I am reminded of Sis's favorite snark on Dickens--you know, that paragraph of wordy, needless prose to get across the succinct fact that "a year passed".

Kudos to you, Ms. Thurman. I much enjoyed the book and am looking forward to any more you feel obliged to excavate from that wasteland we authors--see how I bunch myself in, though I've yet to sell (or even satisfactorily finish) a novel?--like to call a mind.

[Edited because I'm an idiot. Sorry, Ms. Thurman!]


At 8:23 PM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

I liked the book well enough. The ending *rocked* and the beastie elements were very cool. I knew you'd like Cal's voice better than I did, though. I'm not so great at that verbal reparte.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Heh, I dunno, Sis. Gregar has some verbal thrusts that rival his rahke for keen-edged violence. And Charon holds his own, as well.


But yeah, I can see why it wouldn't sit for some. I'm easy, as I admit freely. It takes a lot for me to NOT suspend disbelief. I'm oddly gullible for someone who is debilitatingly suspicious of everyone and everything in real life. I will believe just about everything an author or director tells me, and I fall effortlessly into just about any Voice, no matter how grating.

Can't be helped. It's the same reason I can enjoy movies that irk the shit out of everyone else.

...Heh...and it's probably why I so adore my beloved DBZ. I just...love it!


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