Avid book reader. Lover of fantasy, contemporary fiction, short stories and non-fiction. This blog is a work in progress - and it will likely always be that way.
I know Lisa Moore best as a short fiction author. I think that is a style that suits her perfectly, and one that she cannot completely shake off in this novel. The precision with which she writes, all the hidden metaphors and images throughout the story, they all look like they come out of short story. Only I’m not sure that it really works in a full scale novel. You just read novels a different way, or at least I do.
Sometimes there is paragraph that really catches your attention though, like this one about a hen while our protagonists are sitting in a crowded bar in Latin-America about to order some chicken for dinner:
Out on the cobblestones, a hen was testing the pool of light under the street lamp, touching it once and then again with its claw, jerking the inert lump of its blazingly white body forward by the neck, taking teensy steps. The hen froze in the centre of the light, full of trembling.
The book opens with David Slaney escaping from prison, where he found himself due to a drug smuggling charge. His goal is to get back to his old friend and drug-smuggling buddy who avoided his stay in prison, take a boat to sea and start smuggling drugs again.
Slaney is pretty much like that hen testing the pool of light in front of him. He picks at something he thinks is important to try and snatch for himself, but he might end up being food for someone else’s gain. Also, his new-found freedom is in the spotlight of the police men who are searching for him, and it’s hard to taste freedom when you’re not sure it'll last. The relativity of ‘freedom’ is what’s being explored in this novel. Are we free, or are we only left to think that we are, like the bees in the quote below? Did we escape the net, are we stuck in it, or are we just not aware of how big the net is?
The bees escaped, he said. Last summer. They get it in their heads.
You got them back? Slaney said.
I just had to wait for them to settle down somewhere, he said. Then I snuck up on them with a net.
I’ve tried to put this book into a genre but that’s a pretty difficult thing to do. I saw some book blurbs about this being an adventure story, which I don’t think it is, because they tend to be much more fast-paced, nor does it have the twists and turns you’d expect.
The cover art doesn’t really work either, i don't know why it was chosen, it just doesn’t seem to fit with the book at all. Yes, there is a moment when a woman in a red bikini comes out of the sea, and the sea plays a very important role in the book both as the sea itself and as a symbol of freedom. But the atmosphere created with the art just doesn’t fit with the book in my humble opinion. It’s missing something simple to change the tone of it, to add some mystery, perhaps something like this?
The other thing that disturbed me was the lack of dialogue punctuation. Despite it being a direct dialogue there is no punctuation and no structure with everyone getting a line to themselves either, so it sometimes hard to keep track of who is saying what. Example:
The things you see in retrospect, she said. He’s bald, for Christ’s sake. You don’t understand it, you couldn’t. You think I haven’t been in love? Slaney said.
I’ve tried to figure out why Lisa Moore would have done this, but I can’t find a reason except to slow down the pace of the reading overall, which would be an odd reason anyway.
There were, at first, only two splats, the size of quarters, on the giant windshield and they trembled like things with a consciousness, things trying to hold together against a terrible force of entropy, and then they ran sideways and a drumming began on the roof and the world.
Perhaps none of it matters; perhaps dialogue punctuation deserves some freedom to not be where they are supposed to be too, just like Slaney does.
Disclaimer: This book has been provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.