Usually, when multiple books get mentioned in the same post, it’s because they have something in common — subject, author, genre. The three books I’m going to bring to your attention today don’t really have anything in common, save one thing: they’re all printed on paper and bound. That’s a good enough reason for me to lump them all together, and so without further ado…
The Zero by Jess Walter
Any book that begins with its protagonist not remembering the fact that he’s just shot himself is definitely promising, and it’s lucky that Jess Walter’s National Book Award finalist novel The Zero opens just like this. Five days after 9/11, New York City police officer Brian Remy is experiencing memory lapses — along with the gunshot wound, he doesn’t know his new girlfriend — he’s having trouble with his eyesight, and his son is mourning his death, nevermind the fact that he’s not actually dead. Carried along disjointedly by an unreliable narrator, the story is, at turns, uncomfortable and weird, and if not for the bleak humor (responsible for several “Am I really allowed to think this is funny?” moments), the novel might not have paid off. Yet Walter is an incredibly talented writer, and I think that he takes all the post-9/11 bizarreness, paranoia, discomfort and uncertainty and makes it work in this ambitious book.
Moody Food by Ray Robertson
From the land of back bacon and Labatt comes Ray Robertson’s Moody Food, a book about musician Thomas Graham taking college dropout Bill Hansen on a trip down the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll highway on a quest to make “Interstellar Nort American Music”. Graham is based on country-rock musician Gram Parsons, and the novel somewhat follows the arc of Parsons’ story (hope that doesn’t count as a spoiler for you Parsons fans), but I think the real star of the book is the writing, with its displays of sharp humor and deep love of music.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Was there ever a time when things didn’t have to be trilogies? I don’t know, but The Looking Glass Wars is the first part of a young adult fantasy trilogy about Alice in Wonderland. This new take on the beloved Lewis Carroll classic tells the truth about a girl named Alyss, an exiled princess from Wonderland who told her story to Carroll (and he got it all wrong), in the hopes that someone would find her and take her back home so she could claim her rights as the real Queen of Hearts. I know! Exciting! It even comes with a CD! Woohoo! I guess the best way to describe the writing would be to say that it’s Dan Brown-quality, which means, of course, lame, wooden and obviously meant to be turned into a big-budget blockbuster film. For example:
“The Queendom had been enjoying a tentative peace ever since the time, twelve years earlier, when unbridled bloodshed spattered the doorstep of every Wonderlander. The civil war hadn’t been the longest in all recorded history, but no doubt it was one of the bloodiest.”
And then I fell asleep. Sadly, those are the book’s first two sentences. I’m sure there are people who will dig this book, and its re-imagining of the Alice in Wonderland story, but I’m not in this book’s target age range, and I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the sort of thing I’d have gone for when I was a kid. If someone ever gets around to re-imagining any of the Sweet Valley High books, however, they should definitely shoot me an e-mail.