It’s a bad sign when you have to talk yourself into finishing a book, and that’s exactly where I am with “Plague Year” by Jeff Carlson. If I had even 30 pages to go, I might be exaggerating about how much of that novel I have left to read. Still, I find myself struggling to finish the book, to care about what happens to what ends up being a pretty shallow story, with very shallow characters, which is a shame because of how strong the book’s lede is. “They ate Jorgensen first,” Carlson writes in his opening sentence.
Genius. The story grasped me immediately, and then Carlson telegraphed every plot twist after the first 90 pages. Sad.
I’m going to power through to the end of the book this weekend since I’ve made the commitment to read the stories on The List, but I may or may not update this post depending on how spectacular the ending is. Right now, I just feel disappointed. I foresee no update, but we’ll see.
UPDATE: (July 2, 2010) When I said I’d power through the book over the weekend, I really meant the week and only at the pace of a couple of pages at a time.
So let’s get into it.
One thing that really bugs me about the book is how the narrator is too omniscient, and it gets to the point where you just don’t know if it’s a character’s subconscious mind that is playing narrator or some observant being who isn’t exactly detached from the situation.
Carlson also does a great job of telling you about what’s unfolding, but he doesn’t really show it. I was also disappointed that we never got back to how badly messed up you can get by becoming a cannibal. As I mentioned earlier, the novel starts off with, “They ate Jorgensen first,” and ends with one of the central characters just kind of feeling bad that he resorted to eating people as a way to survive.
Anyway, this book was a major bust for me. On to the next story now.