(cross-posted from my blog.)
15 / The Instructions by Adam Levin
Not quite sure where to start with this one. I loved it. It’s one of the longest books I’ve read (along with Infinite Jest, to which it owes much and with which it shares many themes). The protagonist is a totally amazing, unbelievable, genius, psychopathic messianic ten-year-old (Judah Ben-Gurion Maccabee) – and oh, what he’ll do for the love of a girl named Eliza June Watermark, who may or may not be a Hebrew in the eyes of God.
At over a thousand pages, it’s not a particularly easy read. Pages upon pages examine the interpretation of a piece of Torah scripture as it relates to sitting very close to a girl you like. Other passages detail the uncoordinated coordinated chair-scoot as revolutionary mechanism. The narrative builds to a beautifully-coordinated climax that’s improbably miraculous – and then the story gets even more interesting.
I learned things about Judaism, about behavior disorders, about being a kid, about righteous disobedience. I fist-pumped, cried (quite a bit), marveled at these kids and the writer who conjured them into being, hated that writer for doing such terrible things to the kids he created.
Five stars. Recommended.
16 / Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Dear Leigh Bardugo: your characters are textured and interesting, even if I could see the twist with the secretly evil one happening a hundred pages away! Your weird alternate Tzarist Russian fairytale world is totally cool and compelling. There’s magic, which is always fun, and all those robes with different-colored embroidery would make J.K. Rowling proud.
Just… come on. Enough with the “chosen one” stuff already. Hero girl’s got some inherent mojo that makes her super-powerful, and super-intriguing to the bad guys. Isn’t there something a little more original we could do here? Plus the romantic angle is more than a little Twilight-creepy. Even Harry didn’t fall in love with Voldemort.
Three stars for all the cool stuff I mentioned above. I’ll probably read the sequel.
17 / The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
Yes. YES. Nick Harkaway, you’re my new favorite.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I feel like Stefon talking about a hot new club: The Gone-Away World has freelance truck drivers, ninjas, mimes, broken hearts, horrifying monsters, and the Jorgmund Pipe. (“What’s the Jorgmund Pipe?” “It’s when a midget sits in a trash can and…” … my analogy breaks down right about here.)
But seriously: this is a celebration of storytelling, of imagination, of pulp fiction at its finest. It’s twisty and turny, with a huge amount of heart, guts, and balls. I really don’t want to say more – just read it.
Five stars. So good.