This Week, I Read… (2017 #29)

94 - Song of Susannah

#94 – Song of Susannah, by Stephen King

What a disappointment. If it had just been one thing that irked me, not half a dozen…

To some degree the book felt like killing time before the end of everything, stretching out the event cliff-hangered in book 5 (the delivery of Susannah/Mia’s child) all the way to the end. It doesn’t drag its feet as much as A Song of Ice and Fire does in books 4 + 5, certainly, but I still felt like this book took longer than its plot deserved.

The narrative is fractured, leaving each character or pair of characters entirely in their own section of the book, with incredibly little overlap. Okay, fine, if the story demands it, but we’ve spent the last four books seeing these characters getting to know each other and working together, so yanking them apart for an entire book feels weird. Cheap, even.

Mia is annoying. There. I said it. I thought I liked Detta least of all of Susannah’s personalities, but now, Mia takes the cake. And her backstory makes pretty much no sense.

Hand-waving all sorts of small mistakes in the overarching narrative by blaming it on the increasing chaos of the multiworld…well, that does make sense. (This is actually a quibble I didn’t mention from the previous book, but Detroit is not on Lake Michigan, as it is in one of Father Callahan’s scenes. I was really scratching my head at that one–now I know IT’S ALL DISCORDIA’S FAULT.)

But Stephen King writing himself in as a character Roland meets? I was trying to suspend my disbelief, and laugh at King’s cleverness, but I was also waiting for it to turn tongue-in-cheek, and it didn’t, not really. I just can’t take it seriously, even though I usually love it in TV/movies when the fourth wall gets broken. Here, it made me uncomfortable, and vaguely sad, because King writes openly about his (former) addictions and the impact on his life. It was really the final section of the book that got to me, a collection of (hopefully) fictionalized journal entries by the author detailing the events surrounding the writing of the series and how it almost didn’t happen at all. Ending that section with the collision that nearly killed him IRL, which he writes so movingly about in On Writing, but turning it into a character death? I honestly felt sick. I don’t think I was supposed to, but I did.

I’m crossing my fingers that the final book makes reading this one worth it.

95 - A Game of You96 - Fables and Reflections

#95 + #96 – A Game of You and Fables and Reflections, by Neil Gaiman

I participated in a Tumblr read-a-thon on Sunday, where my goal was to finish Song of Susannah (check) and read as many of the Sandman volumes as I could. I got through one and a half that afternoon, and finished Fables the next day.

A Game of You was charming, thrilling, and ultimately sad in a cathartic way. I loved the characters, especially Wanda, who could hold a conversation with a flayed face on the wall (eww) but still be frightened of more personal matters. I loved Barbara, who created a vivid fantasy land from her childhood stuffed animals–totally relatable to me, I’d do that in a heartbeat! I enjoyed it from start to finish, which sadly I cannot say of the next volume.

Fables is a mishmash of single-story issues from all over the comic’s run, and it shows. There’s very little holding them together, and the quality varies greatly between them. Honestly, most of the vignettes bored me, aside from The Song of Orpheus (brilliantly written) and Ramadan (brilliantly drawn). The rest I waded through because I hoped they might give me hints to the larger workings of the story, but they don’t reveal much about Morpheus I didn’t already know, and they’re bogged down with excessive historical detail. I might have liked them better if I’d read the comics in published order, and gotten them one at a time, so they didn’t blur together in a repetitive mess of exposition.

97 - A Long Fatal Love Chase

#97 – A Long Fatal Love Chase, by Louisa May Alcott

It’s exactly what it says in the title, no more. It’s a good title, I’ll grant it that–but it’s a bad story.

Even when I read Little Women first at ten years old, I knew that Jo (mine and nearly everyone’s favorite sister) was a thinly veiled self-insert character for the author. I didn’t have the terminology to call her that yet, but I still knew. And reading Chase has only strengthened that–this is exactly the sort of pulpy, sensationalist trash Jo was writing as a “scribbler” for the weekly papers.

It’s got no foreshadowing, no depth, no subtlety of any kind. Rosamund runs from her “husband,” believes for a time she’s safe, and then WHAM! there he is. (Or his manservant, either way.) She’s forced to meet with the man she is trying to get out of her life, and he tries to win her back/threatens her/both. She finds a way to escape him.

THAT’S THE WHOLE BOOK. The characters are the most papery-thin of nearly anything I’ve ever read. The action is forced and unsatisfying. The ending is abrupt but predictable. There’s no justice, no remorse, no guilt, it’s just over.

The coverleaf and the end matter present this book as a lost novel of Alcott’s, rejected by her publishers because it was too sensational a story to print at the time. However, that doesn’t mean it was worth publishing now–it could also have been rejected because it’s bad.

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