Well, Pessl’s first novel didn’t quite end the way I anticipated, and I don’t know if that disappoints me or not. Hannah Schneider turned out to be some sort of agent for a rebel pseudo-political group called the Nightwatchmen, and so did, apparently, Blue’s father. The second is harder for me to swallow than the first. Actually, I think I just decided, I didn’t like the ending. The story was so sinister, so believably dark up until she brought in this Nightwatchmen thing. Hannah, the strange teacher, hugely popular and overly interested in minors (even sleeping with one of them), who happens to have the unfortunate experience of having someone die in a drunk drowning accident at her party. Later, she is murdered/committed suicide in the woods – I like the suicide angle better, it fits her character better. On the surface, cool as a cucumber, but underneath, solar flare. Depressed. Anxious. Unsatisfied. Gets her jollies by contributing to the deliquency of minors, overcoming that horrid feeling of never quite being popular enough when she was in school. I think that’s a character more people could identify with. As far as Blue’s father goes – well he was a weird one from the beginning, but a secret agent for a revolutionary group? I have to stretch just a bit too much on that one.
All that aside, this was a great book. 4 stars. It was fun to read, a surprising page turner, with colorful characters in which I think a lot of us could see a part of ourselves (usually parts we don’t like, too), and so it worked as a social mirror. I liked the way it was written – as I noted, several fantastic observations and turns of phrase. I just wished the ending was a bit more on the believable side. But, it won’t deter me from her next book whenever it comes out, whatever it is.
I have turned now back to the realm of speculative fiction. This time I chose Dan Simmons’ The Terror: A Novel. I’ve read a lot of Simmons before and I like him. I like how he’s almost perversely allusive to other works of literature and poetry. The man is in love with Keats, for example. But this book seems wholly unlike anything I’ve read by him before (both Hyperions, Ilium, Olympos). I’ve heard really good things about it too – and so far, it has lived up to the hype. I’m reading this book in in the beginning of summer in Florida, while running on the treadmill, and it made me feel cold. (It takes place on a frozen ship in the Arctic, exploring unexplored regions in about 1847.) His descriptions run chill all through your body. “To touch iron was to lose flesh.” The power of the ice as he describes it is incredible. I’m looking forward to the sort of retro-adventure style combined with some good ole fashioned monster horror. And if I know Simmons, his characters will be fun and empathetic.