(cross-posted from my blog.)
24 / Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Dark and twisty. Fun and depressing. Full of unreliable narrators. It’s been a while since I read anything resembling a mystery, so this was a breath of fresh air.
Like in my review of Room, I really don’t want to give anything away plot-wise, but I will say this: the first part of the book plays like a pretty standard whodunnit. At the halfway mark, though, shit gets real. Ms. Flynn is a crafty, crafty lady.
Four stars. Trust no one.
25 / Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
One phrase kept running through my head as I read: “nerd nostalgia porn.” Lots of my friends inhaled and enjoyed this book, but I was slightly less charmed.
Combining elements of Reamde, Neuromancer, For the Win, and strongly reminiscent at times of Ender’s Game (which, strangely, was not referenced in the book, unlike every other piece of media released in the 1980s), Ready Player One is an enjoyable “fight the man” tale set in a near-future where nearly everyone lives in squalor and spends most of their time “plugged in” to Oasis, the ultimate cyberspace environment.
Our protagonist, Wade Watts, is one of thousands of Oasis-dwellers on a hunt for a mysterious prize. He’s just a poor kid, and he’s up against a group of professional “gunters” (“egg hunters,” as in “easter egg”) who aren’t just fighting dirty in the game. Hijinks ensue.
Three stars. Not totally for me, but fun.
Holy shitsnacks was this book crazy! I was hardcore addicted to this book. I haven’t been sucked into a mystery in quite a while, and it was awesome. This is definitely a book where you need to know as little about it as possible to really enjoy it. I kept screaming at acquaintances to read this book so I would have somebody to discuss it with. This book is dark and deeply disturbing.
Nick and Amy Dunne move to a small town in Missouri after both losing their writing jobs in New York. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. There are signs of a struggle, and the mounting evidence points to Nick. The chapters in the book alternate between Nick’s perspective starting the day of Amy’s disappearance, and Amy’s diary. I really can’t discuss any more without giving away major plot twists, but this book is crack. It’s addicting, and dark, and it makes you a little crazy.
I was curious about this book after seeing the Twitter buzz from fellow book bloggers. Unfortunately, I chose to read this book after finishing a Tana French book. Both books focused on families that looked like they had the perfect marriage but underneath there was turmoil.
Even though the main premis of the book sounded fascinating, I found the two main characters annoying. I appreciated this alternating points of view from the two main characters even when the same plot twist was told from each of their perspectives.
Flynn definitely delivers clever plot twists throughout this book, but at times it was hard to “trust/believe” the characters’ actions based on past actions. I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read it at a different time or if I had read previous books by Flynn.
I’ve read a lot of scary and disturbing books over the years. Lots of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, Battle Royale-esque stories, etc. And I keep going back for more. I’ve seen — and have enjoyed — tons of horror movies (Eli Roth is one of my brother’s BFFs from childhood, you can see him die brutally in most of Roth’s work. Fun!). I guess what I’m trying to say is that I guess I’ve become desensitized to the “horror” genre. And maybe that’s why I think its such a big deal that I found Gone Girl so downright frightening. I started the book expecting a Dennis Lehane style mystery, and ended up with something much, much different.
Gone Girl has been everywhere for the past few months. Book clubs. Online discussions. Displays at Barnes & Noble. And before I read it, I knew a little bit about it: a young wife goes missing and her husband becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Told partly in flashback and in journal entries, we get the story of a marriage from both sides. We also get to see what happens when a news story (like a missing spouse) turns into a media circus, complete with a terrible Nancy Grace-esque talking head, and how the media can sway public opinion regardless of the facts. I expected and was interested by of it.
What I was not expecting, and ended up being both fascinated and terrified by, was the rest. This book surprised me more than any other book I can remember reading. Every 30 or 40 pages, I would completely change my mind about what I think the ending would be and what had happened to Amy (the wife). Was it handsome husband, Nick? Or his adorable mistress, Andie? Or maybe one of the many people who have been accused of stalking Amy over the years? A jealous neighbor? A homeless vagrant? His angry father? Her bizarre parents? Who would want to hurt beautiful, lovely, wealthy, perfect Amy? And why?
And then, about halfway through, something shifted…and the psychological portrait the story painted of this seemingly normal American couple turned into the scariest thing I can remember reading in ages. And at that point, I couldn’t put the book down. I’ll definitely be seeking out other books by Gillian Flynn. The characters she painted were vibrant and real, and the backstories and details about each of them were fascinating.
I love that this book seems to have fallen into the Sixth Sense/Fight Club/The Crying Game territory, where nobody who has read it is willing to spoil the outcome, leaving interested readers to find out for themselves.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl ended up being one of the hot books of the summer. I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the book cover, or reading a blog entry about it. After reading that Reese Witherspoon had signed on to star and produce in the adaptation, and seeing that Jezebel chose it as their inaugural book club selection, I decided to take the plunge.
The book starts out with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot: wife goes missing, world suspects husband. The book is sort of told in three pieces. His side of the story, her side of the story, and the ending as it unfolds. This isn’t quite a traditional mystery, it’s a psychological thriller.
And it’s creepy. Every 50 pages, I thought I’d figured out who did it. The husband. His mistress. She’s faking it. Her creepy best friend from high school. And then 50 pages later, I would be so thrown by the sheer force of both the husband and the wife’s masterful manipulation that I’d be lost again.
Gone Girl is a twisted psycho-thriller/mystery that is hard to put down once you start reading. If you have heard anything about this novel, you know that very little about the plot can be told without spoiling the story. In short, this is about Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne. Both professional writers, they meet in New York in the late ’90s, fall in love, and get married. Amy’s parents are psychologists who have written a series of very popular children’s books featuring the character “Amazing Amy” based on their daughter. Amy is wealthy, intelligent and beautiful. Handsome, witty Nick is from a working class midwestern family. His father, now suffering from Alzheimers in a nursing home, was abusive to his wife and twins Nick and Go (Margo). When Nick and Amy lose their writing jobs in the recession and Go tells Nick that his mother is dying of cancer, the couple moves to Nick’s home town, New Carthage, MO. Go and Nick use Amy’s money to open a bar in the struggling town, where the recession has taken a toll. Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. It looks like foul play, but there is no body, no ransom note.
The rest of the story really can’t be explained without spoiling it. The plot gets gritty and disturbing as Flynn takes you inside the minds of critically flawed characters and a genuine sociopath. The resolution to the story is downright creepy but brilliant. I remember feeling the same way after reading some of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine’s and PD James’ novels, which likewise feature brutal crimes and disturbed but very intelligent perpetrators.
Flynn takes the reader on a roller coaster ride. You will think you have it figured out, only to be surprised by Flynn’s brilliant plot twists. I like the way she constructs the narrative, alternating between Nick’s point of view in real time and entries from Amy’s diary. One of the side themes in the story is journalism, particularly TV journalism, with its sensationalization of crime stories. Every reporter is trying to get the scoop but brings his/her own prejudices to the story. By the same token, Flynn manipulates her readers’ opinions of characters throughout the book. It can be unsettling, and I loved it. Flynn’s creativity and imagination are stunning. This is an excellent summer book choice.
Gillian Flynn sets you up to expect the worst throughout her second novel, Dark Places. Considering the depths main character Libby Day sinks to (at least in her thoughts), it’s clear Flynn is an author not afraid to go there. At least, until the end, which is awesome and yet somehow…not.
Libby Day’s mother and two older sisters were brutally murdered when she was seven years old. Her brother, Ben, is in prison for the murders. But when an adult Libby hooks up with a group calling themselves the Kill Club, she finds herself mired in a murky world, where strangers hold court on her history. They do their best to convince Libby that what she remembers is not what happened at all – and Libby, despite herself, begins to doubt. Throughout Libby’s current story are flashbacks from the past, in the voices of her dead mother and imprisoned brother; it’s in these that the story of what went on at the Day farm becomes clearer.
Flynn weaves an interesting mystery – the story is all twisty, as you would expect for a book of this ilk, and every single character seems to have an agenda, including Libby herself. For her, it’s mainly money: how she can get it and live off it without having to work. While she (understandably) is deeply changed by the murders, some of her reactions reveal a black persona. It’s right there in the book’s opening line: “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.” Libby desires money and nothing else, until she finds herself drawn into the Kill Club’s theories and goes on a chase for the truth. The story hits its stride here. Uncomfortable as it was, with hints of paedophilia and satanism, it’s never less than engrossing – take Libby’s meeting with female fans of Ben. It’s a perfectly-written segment, conveying some of the bug-eyed craziness of serial-killer fans; but it also manages to show there may be some method to their madness. Of course, they also tell Libby they ‘forgive you for your part in this fiasco’ while blaming Ben’s imprisonment on her – balancing out any sanity they try to present.
It’s an enjoyable tale for sure; particularly with brother Ben and mother Patty’s last-day stories mixed in – but at the same time the narrative begins to suffer a little, as Flynn starts to tie them up just a touch too neatly. It’s a small complaint for a really good read, and if you like books where everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow, then Dark Places will do it for you – the payoff is worth it.