Book Frivolity.....

Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!

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Stone of Farewell
Tad Williams
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Cannonbridge - Jonathan Barnes Please note that this was reviewed from a proof copy.

And there are some semi-spoilers in here. Plus one I'll hide. So be warned, read on at your own peril!

So, Mr Cannonbridge, a bridge between the canons? Initially, I actually thought that this would be a great read for a classic literature class. It would be an enjoyable introduction to some of the more notable writers of the 19th century, a sort of bridge between the then and now.
And then I changed my mind.

This is what I call a hijacked story. And I quite enjoy a hijacker when it's a short story, because it's fine after a 30 minute read to be jacked, and grin at the absurdity. But not after an approximate 5 hour read. I was actually annoyed and wanted to call the time police and sue for my hours back..

But I'll back up!

I enjoyed the first 90% of the book, I've always been intrigued by literary hoaxes. The premise of a supernatural being that is messing with literary history, captured my attention and the 'in the present' thriller aspect was fast paced and exciting. The mystery seemed well presented and the use of favourite historical authors interweaved into the narrative was inspired (especially Maria Monk, whose validity as an author has always been questioned in 'real life' !).

There was some clunky writing at the beginning that is a bit cringe worthy and the transition to the overseeing narrator confusing at times (though I think with some careful formatting, that could be rectified). Said narrator could've been used to better effect if it was used a bit less sporadically.

Character development was a little stunted, but then there were so many in this book that jumped in and out, it would've been rather hard to progress too far with any of them. Even the two main characters felt like bit part players due to the quick transitions. They really only seemed to be there to frame the overarching plot, which was interesting device in it's own way.

The setting really wasn't considered much at all. This was about when, rather than where, and each subsection was headed with time and place rather than it being explained within the main thread.

I was pretty enthralled.

And then I was jacked.

Spoilers ahead:
With a thinly veiled social commentry on how multinational super corporations are taking over the world at that. I was reading about a literary hoax and ended up with banks as sentient beings taking control of history and politics It wasn't well done, it was thin and seemed thrown in at the end to try and be clever. Look at how brilliant I was to make you think this was in some way about literature! You can almost see the author sniggering with unabashed glee.

The linkage of the big reveal to the initial story was underwhelming at best. There was paper in the hole in the wall? Mmm. The concept of the Island and supernatural character creation could've been explored in a much more satisfactory way! It wasn't mysterious, it was just underwritten. It be scary, there be dirt! Really underwritten. I was terribly dissapointed that it was flicked off so lightly and I think if there was more insight into those aspects, the jack would've been less irritating. If this had've been the main focus of how the hoax occurred, I would've been appeased.
Spoiler end.

And, if I hadn't been so disillusioned by the time I got there, the ending pages would've actually been genius. If they were in another book entirely...

Overall, I can see this being a novel
that really polarises readers. There will be some people like me, that thought they were reading one thing and got something way beyond the scope of the initial story line, and others that really think the turn it takes as being inspired. I guess it shall be one of those novels you'll either love or hate, but probably not a lot of inbetween.

I'd still suggest reading it if you have a spare few hours, because the first three quarters really is a enjoyable romp through 1800's canon. Just stop at about 90% and create your own ending.