I haven't posted many book reviews here recently, but every once in awhile I think it's important. Reading is a such a huge part of being a writer that I can't help but feeling like this blog would be incomplete if I ignored talking about the books I read that inspire me or motivate me. Every now and then I encounter a book that really reaches into my imagination and plants itself there. Here's two wonderful books, both published in the last six years, that I read in the past two months that caught my writer's attention.
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
Alternating chapters tell the stories of two characters whose lives are completely intwined in this fascinating modern fairy tale. I found myself constantly telling myself "Okay, one more chapter" and never being able to stop because I always wanted to revisit the other character a little longer.
One story reads almost like a modern Grimm's Fairy Tale. It relates the life a boy who is taken by Changelings and becomes one of them. This pack of feral children are remarkably entertaining. Speck is easily one of the best characters I've encountered in a while. I definitely loved reading about their plight. It was emotional and was brought to a beautiful conclusion.
The parallel story of a Changeling who steals the life of the other boy started a little slower and the character considerably less likable in the beginning. But as his story progresses, I found myself feeling incredibly sympathetic toward him and invested in how things would turn out for him.
In many ways this book, as the title suggests, is the story of stolen childhood for both characters. At times it's incredibly saddening but ultimately rewarding. As a writer, the interaction of the characters was remarkably well down. It's not easy keeping so many characters so active at the same time. Also the pace in which the two stories unfold is perfect.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
A stunning and disturbing novel about a dire future that explores current global fears and trends to their most far-fetched limits, yet remains so incredibly believable and possible. A future where corporations and their employees are given all the privileges on par with a new royal class. A future where human commerce has created monsters in order to continue our absurd capitalist way of life long after it should have evolved. If that wasn't remarkable enough, it's also an extremely compelling portrait of a brilliant sociopath, a gripping story of struggle for sanity among a lonely survivor, and the failings of a manufactured utopia.
Snowman is one of those rare main characters that I identified with instantly. It was so easy to picture myself in his predicament and reacting with the same mix of ill-equipped frustration and amazement. This connection with character is something that I try to do with my books, to put the reader there beside the character in the story. This book was recommended to me by a good friend after it reminded him of my writing. I can certainly see that. There's something familiar in the language of this book and the characters Snowman and Oryx feel as though they could be the people that Elizabeth and Dune from Thief grow up to be. Pretty amazing tale. This is the first book in a trilogy, so I have two more books to add to my list.
Both of these literary novels are books with serious themes but don't shy away from imagination. In fact, they are so rich with imagination and creative imagery that it somewhat surprises me that they managed to get published and succeed in an era dominated by memoirs. But I think this is the thing that every writer must always remember...that if you write a truly great story someone will believe in it regardless of what the marketing trends say.