Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New This Week #3: Finding Misery

Well, this was an apt title to choose for today - I wouldn't say I've exactly found MISERY, but I did just find out that my submission didn't make it through this round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, so it's not exactly puppies and rainbows either.

Anyway, so Finding Misery, by Russell C. Connor.  This guy is another I’ve met through the book group; as before, I wanted to try at least one of his books, but I confess: ever since Pet Sematary scared the daylights out of my 12-year-old self, I’ve been too chicken to revisit the horror genre, which is Connor’s bread and butter.  (I do really want to try his Whitney at some point, though: the idea of setting a horror story in the aftermath of a hurricane, when the power is out and streets are flooded and looters are prowling through wrecked homes EVEN BEFORE the unspeakable whatever-it-is comes crawling up out of the sea, is pretty thrillsome just on principle.)

So I was delighted to find out that he had a new book just coming out, this one in something of a different vein.  I could sketch it out here, but let me put it to you the way that the book itself does: our man – earnest nice-guy underachiever Rudy Compton – just found out that his wife is cheating on him.  Again.  And in the aftermath, on his first and only night in jail, shit gets REALLY weird, REALLY fast.  I want to emphasize this opening part of the book, because for me, it’s what sells the whole thing.  Sure, there’s plenty of awesomeweird spec-fic supernatural stuff further in, but I wouldn’t have gotten that far if Rudy’s Earth-normal life didn’t hook me all by itself.  I think Connor’s winning strategy comes down to two things, really.

1.  Triggering the reader’s morbid curiosity / rubbernecker instinct.  Relationship drama (of the call-the-cops varietal) is always ugly, fascinating stuff, and packs an extra punch here because it’s as new and shocking to Rudy as it is to us – this is NOT his accepted norm.  Which brings me to:

2.  Casting Rudy as a true newbie in all this – sharp-witted and a little scrappy but also profoundly lost.  You can picture Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club without going far off the mark, and maybe that’s the best way to sum it up: in both cases, it’s the voyeuristically-detailed shambles of the main character’s life that draw you in, and the story just gets bigger from there.  

There's a few more points to make about this book, but all of them are over in my review, so I'll leave it here.  Apparently even the rejected entries get feedback from two reviewers though, so I'll probably come cast up my private shame here in the next day or so.  Look forward to it!

Hemingway said to never write about a place until you're away from it, because it gives you perspective.  But one look at that exposed metal toilet in the front corner of the cell reminds me I'm no Hemingway.

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