Nightlife, NYC-Set Urban Fantasy

nightlife-webThis was my second read-through of this novel, done so for the purpose of refreshing my memory on the series in order to start reading the newer books in the series that I never got to. Because now there are 9, and I have only read 4 (and a half) of them, I have a ways to go.
I read this first in high school and fell indelibly in love with the characters and the story, so I restarted this book with a very high opinion of it. Upon reexamination, I find that there are places where the prose gets a bit… unwieldy? What I mean is that sometimes Thurman’s sentence structures don’t flow quite right, and get too long, or seem to be missing a connecting word that might make them easier to understand. Especially in the first third of the book, there were multiple times where I had to stop and reread a sentence at least once or twice in order to actually determine what was meant, or the tone. This didn’t really diminish the overall strength of the novel, though.

Cal Leandros is only half human, and the other half is the ugliest of ugly monsters. His mom is an alcoholic fortune-telling gypsy who’d do anything for money (hence: Cal), but his older brother is the only real saving grace of the group. Niko—blond, strong, and wickedly intelligent—is Cal’s savior, mentor, best friend, and companion, and the only reason this story doesn’t go belly-up.
Cal and Niko are on the run from what they’ve dubbed Grendels, the nasty monsters responsible for Cal’s non-human genetics. They’ve taken up residence in New York City, where non-human life is equally as common as anything else but goes unnoticed.

When shit hits the fan yet again, the two make plans to leave town and run, but leaving just isn’t in the cards. They meet a very, very old creature by the name of Robin Goodfellow, a nasty troll named Abbagor, and then shit <i>really</i> hits the fan, and Cal is possessed by a <i>real</i> monster, whose tag-team plans involve the Unmaking of the world.

Despite reading a bit like a “first novel” at times, the story is captivating and moving, although admittedly a bit slow-moving at the start, and Thurman does a good job of making the reader care about each of these characters and their fates. Furthermore, the entire duration of Cal’s possession is written phenomenally well, because the perspective swap is flawless, and as the struggle for ownership of Cal’s body begins to increase, the change in narrative/emotive display/etc. is so subtle and gradual that, unless you’re good, it’s very easy to miss.

The hiccups in sentence structure don’t detract significantly enough from the story to mark it down from a 4-5 star rating, personally. <i>Nightlife</i> is definitely worth reading if you’re a fan of urban fantasy lit, the interplay of brotherly relationships, and intense amounts of sass.

Stephen King’s Carrie, an Exercise in Anger Management

8jejgfqA few months ago, I decided that, despite never having had any interest in Stephen King’s material, he was an author whose work I should at least be marginally familiar with. Because I had no idea where to start (after all, the man is prolific), I turned to Facebook and asked my friends for “essential” reads, or his “best” work. I was overwhelmingly suggested his Dark Tower series, but I wasn’t about to invest that much time or energy. Carrie it was.

When I told my mom that I was going to read it, she immediately expressed complete disinterest in not just the book or the movie(s), but the very story itself. My mom is an adventurous woman in a lot of respects, but there are certain kinds of media that she just has no interest in because of what it is. This book is one of those things. My mom and I have very different taste in media, though (and I already bought a copy of it), so I wasn’t going to give up before I started.

I will say that within five pages, I understood why she refused this story. I will say that by sixty pages in, I was already mad. And I am. It is a story of child abuse compounded by the emotional abuse of shitty peers, and it has made this girl spiteful, even hateful, and I cannot condemn her for it, because I understand it. Nonetheless, it makes my heart ache, and it makes a part of me absolutely fume.

This is, obviously, the point.

The story itself is cut through with journalistic exposition, some of it in the form of news stories, some in the form of ‘witness’ interviews, and some in scientific journalese. The idea is to circle this situation from a present, developing view, and a said-and-done looking-back from significantly outside the situation.

I read the bulk of this book on the plane returning to Boston from my brief vacation home, across the aisle from a preacher reading his Bible, which I found… amusingly ironic? Coincidental, really, but nonetheless. The truth is that I already knew the gist of the book’s climax because there’ve been two movies and knowing was inescapable, but even so I was just numb to it. I was numb to the entire rest of the book.

Frankly, I didn’t enjoy Carrie. I don’t know if I ever could have enjoyed Carrie. Even at my most vindictive when I was younger and the brutality of my own social trauma was fresher in my mind, I couldn’t have enjoyed any part of this. I’m still not convinced that the novel is designed to be “enjoyed” at all, but I’m left hoping nobody does. It is worth reading, I think, because it is innovative in its approach, and King’s prose here is interesting and fluid. It is worth reading because it thrusts upon you the result of a life of seemingly small abuses, even if it is in a science-fictiony kind of way. Even so, I have no idea how to quantify a rating for the title in the terms of stars. Three seems insufficient, but four or five imply something I’m not convinced I want to imply.

So here’s what I think:

  • I think that King’s method of storytelling is at once fluid and disruptive. I think that it is well-structured and intriguing, and I appreciated the way that he wove thoughts into the structure by interrupting sentences with parenthetical phrases all in lower-case.
  • I simultaneously think that the semi random, and increasingly common over time, inclusion of journalistic material, interviews, etc. is really disruptive and can make it moderately difficult to keep track of what’s actively going on. Furthermore, the perpetual flipping of perspective can make it difficult to keep track of characters if one comes in unprepared.
  • The book reads like King was expecting a movie deal out of it. He obviously got it, but what I mean is that, especially with the inclusion of all the exterior material—the article pieces, excerpts from books written by others, the Q/A’s from court proceedings, etc—placed as it is, and the perspective swapping, and the fact that the entire book remains relatively “surface” (that is to say, not at any point overly analytical or introspective in a way that would be impossible to capture on a screen), it reads like it’s prepped for transition into a screenplay. This isn’t necessarily a negative, but I’m not willing to call it a positive, either.

As it stands, I’m uncomfortable about this book and I can’t take up any really firm positions about it. I respect it, but I don’t know that I “like” it. Nevertheless, I will maintain that it was worth my time and effort, and I would recommend reading it.