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A String in the Harp: Welsh Tourism

Sometimes novels are more than just stories. Sometimes they double as travelogues, where the author was so completely immersed in the place they were living that the descriptions in the story act almost as an advertisement for that country or city. The very long and epic Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, set in India, is a bit like that, as is my current read, A String in the Harp, which is set in Wales.

Wales is a bit of a mystery to many Americans. Is it its own country? Is it part of England? What can you even do there? And so on. Thus has been my own view of Wales added with a vague notion that Merlin lived there or King Arthur, or someone from that legend.

A String in the Harp (at least halfway through) doesn’t have anything to do with Arthurian legend. It is a story about a broken family mourning the loss of their wife and mother. The younger kids and dad have fled to Wales where Dad can be immersed in his university work. The oldest, Jen, flies over on her high school Christmas break to spend a few weeks with them. Wales is alternately cold, windy, rainy, mucky harsh, and in glimpses for her, beautiful.

Written the the 1970s when author Nancy Bond was attending school there, the plot is very slow, but it’s almost like a day by day travelogue of what Jen and her siblings are experiencing being in this wild and lonely country.  In this country tour inside a story, readers learn a bit of the culture, history, language, and meet a few of the locals. Jen’s brother Peter finds a key on the beach and soon realizes that this key open a window into ancient Wales. Things really start taking off when his sisters realize that something very odd is going on. This adventure may be what they all need to become content with each other again. I’m excited to see where the story goes.

A String in the Harp is a great book to read with a hot drink on a rainy night.

 

Arc of a Scythe: Playing God

Thunderhead coverWhat happens when humans are in charge of dealing out death? The Arc of a Scythe series by Neal Shusterman takes on this question. In a world where humanity has conquered death and is ruled by a collective consciousness called the Thunderhead (think of our modern internet “Cloud” on steroids), utopia still has not been reached. It has been deemed necessary that people still die, keeping to the natural order of things. And so a Scythedom was formed, a collection of humans chosen to be the grim reapers of mankind. The second installment of the series, Thunderhead, digs deeper into questions surrounding Scythes, namely, the biggie: Are they playing God?

As a nearly all-seeing, all-knowing artificial intelligence, the Thunderhead, is far more godlike, but is not allowed to deal out death or bring about life. There is a separation between Thunderhead and Scythedom in this futuristic America, much like separation fo church and state in what the series refers to as the “Age of Mortality.” Despite that separation, the Thunderhead finds a way around its own rules to alter the course of human history.

Thunderhead is one of those books you know is going to be great and it’s going to end on a cliffhanger and so you don’t want to finish it until the next book in the series is out. I was on a deadline to finish reading Thunderhead before returning it to the library, and I did return it a day late, but left the last third to read when book three is out. Thankfully, Shusterman will likely have the next book out in short order, not like, ahem, me.

The Arc of a Scythe series isn’t so much a plot-driven story as it is a philosophical debate. What is mortality, really? What would life be like if we never died? What would bring us to a state in which we allocated our fellow humans to periodically execute certain numbers of mankind? Is our technology merely an advanced way of building our own god? The rules and organization of Shusterman’s world are built and defined well. It has some similarities to The Hunger Games series, but, thankfully, leaves out most of the angst and hints at a more satisfying ending.

Arc of a Scythe seems at first a simpler tale than other teen series, but it has layers and layers of ideas, themes and concepts all building on each other and as a reader, you just know there’s going to be some big reveal (or maybe just hope there will be) like in The Giver, that just turns everything on its head. I really like the highlighting of autonomous or charter regions in Thunderhead, as it reminds me of my time in China and their similar setup. The idea of a sort of “planned community” type of freedom intrigues me. So many good stories are based off of this idea, The Truman Show, The 13th Floor, The Giver, and so on, and it’s a relatable concept for today as we have so much “freedom” and simultaneously so many, many laws to follow.

I can’t wait to read book three of this series and also to finish Thunderhead, and I really hope the series will be more than a trilogy, but Shusterman’s writing and world are great, so I think I’ll be happy with it either way. And I have to also add, his book covers are outstanding.

Book Review: The Blithedale Romance

Upon finishing this strange, voyeuristic tale by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the single, burning desire I had was to reread the first few chapters.  I did, and it was if a veil had been yanked away, so different was my perspective after knowing the whole story.

Hawthorne, known by most because they had to read The Scarlet Letter in high school, is one of those authors that I’ve really come to love through his short stories. He fits into this sort of gothic colonial genre along with Washington Irving of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame. They make America into this wild, untamed place of both delight and horror.

Hawthorne’s sort of like O. Henry, too.  Although his endings are not complete twists, there’s a sense of irony pervading everything. “The Birthmark” is my favorite short story of Hawthorne’s and is about a scientist who marries a beautiful woman who has a birthmark on her cheek. The scientist becomes obsessed with removing the birthmark, trying experiment after experiment, and for love of him, his wife suffers through it.  I won’t spoil the ending, but you can probably guess that it’s not happy.

The Blithedale Romance does indeed have romance in it as well as other themes and topics.  It deals a bit with the Transcendental movement of the time and the search for utopia–basically the idea that with enough brain power and ingenuity humans can make themselves and the earth perfect. I was surprised to find that Hawthorne himself took part in one of these commune schemes because he’s always seemed to be someone practical about the limits and foibles of human nature. Contrasted with this Walden Pond-ish scheme for getting back to nature, is the Spiritualist movement. Table turning, magicians, and veiled ladies were all the craze at the time as well, and the first clue we have that the narrator and main character, Miles Coverdale, is not very serious about “going to the woods and living deliberately” is that he attends a magician’s show featuring a veiled lady right at the beginning. Coverdale is a man in search of an epoch in his life, especially one that will give him a purpose.

As both a narrator and a character, I don’t really like Miles Coverdale, perhaps because I see some of the same annoying traits in myself. Coverdale is an observer, not a man of action, and he overthinks everything. The second clue that he’s not too serious about this striving for utopia is that he falls extremely ill the day they are to begin work and takes what feels like decades to recover, sitting and musing in his room, when it is clear he’d be a lot better off outside in the sun and getting exercise.

Now, he did surprise me by eventually doing the hard work (according to himself), but I was shocked by how affronted he is by his friend, Hollingsworth, who seems to be a genuine believer in being able to reform people. Coverdale believes Hollingsworth’s philanthropic desires and plans are leading him straight to the doorway to hell next to the gates of heaven in Pilgrim’s Progress.  As Coverdale tends to overdramatize everything and is not a very reliable narrator, I struggled to understand just what was so awful about Hollingsworth, a man of action who has purpose and a good heart. Now, the saying goes that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I gather that’s what concerns our narrator, Coverdale. It is also no big revelation to find that Coverdale doesn’t really believe in the whole utopian idea like his friend does. Coverdale’s problem is that he doesn’t believe in anything and has no purpose to his life. He is pretty honest about that by the end of the book, along with his final revelation, which makes his issue with Hollingsworth clear.

I had to go back and reread the first few chapters, because I just plowed away into the book without knowing anything about the story. (I usually don’t read introductions or anything, because they often give away too much of the plot.) The happenings of the first 2-3 chapters, I was thinking, okay that’s nice, veiled lady, maybe a mystery? Scary story? And the farm. Something about the follies of hippie communes?  But The Blithedale Romance actually ended up being about romance, about the clash between men and women in the world, and that I didn’t expect.

The first character Coverdale scrutinizes in the book is a young woman with the stage name of Zenobia. She is necessarily beautiful, vivacious, and is a mover and shaker who appears to be somewhat the head of this group (not sure how many) of people who have come to live at Blithedale to farm and live off the land. Coverdale fancies a love triangle is being played out over the summer among Zenobia, Hollingsworth, and another woman. Our narrator plays at being detached when he’s anything but. Zenobia’s a bit theatrical and takes pride in living unconventionally for a woman at the time. She jokes about how at first the women will take care of the house duties and then move on to sharing the men’s work. She and Hollingsworth argue about her wish to begin or be a part of a women’s liberation movement (something with which Coverdale appears to agree and Hollingsworth disagree), and Coverdale is surprised when Zenobia gives into this philanthropist rather easily and meekly.

Underlying the plot is the theme of women just wanting to be loved aside from or despite age or beauty or riches. The story of the veiled lady that Zenobia orates for her comrades is a peek into her heart. With a mention of Eve near the beginning of the book, the thought of the Biblical curse that God put on women is present, specifically that they will always have a desire for their husband or a husband.  Zenobia is young, beautiful, single, rich, independent, and it’s ultimately not enough. And it’s not enough, because she’s a woman. It is a curse of womanhood, and we see this most clearly at the end of the story as we realize she and Coverdale share the same heartache, yet Coverdale with no purpose except maybe his poetry, is able to move on and be content in middle age.

Zenobia also delivers one of the greatest lines and I don’t want to make fun of it because her character means it in all seriousness, but it’s definitely a line you could use as a joke, too. Coverdale takes her hand and it’s as cold as ice. He says as much to her and she replies: “the extremities die first, they say.” I really got a kick out of that line for some reason–maybe it was the extreme drama from both her and Coverdale.

At the end of the book, Coverdale fancies Hollingsworth to be living in a state of perpetual defeat. All life and purpose seems to have left him. The readers are again made aware of the unreliable and fanciful nature of our narrator as he describes Hollingsworth’s woman as trying to keep Coverdale away from him. Is Hollingsworth truly defeated or has his life found a different purpose? It’s evident in a lot of ways that Coverdale isn’t just the poetic voyeur and analyzer that he pretends to be. I reread the beginning and then fully understood that he may know all of these people a lot better than his narration tells. That this carefully detached man ends up alone in middle age isn’t surprising, his grand ending confession aside. Coverdale reminds me a little bit of the narrator in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, another character who can’t stop overanalyzing everything, and to his own detriment.

The Blithedale Romance will eventually require a second reading for me to really soak in everything going on in the story, and it’s the knowledge of that which really brings to light just what a master Nathaniel Hawthorne was at his craft. That subsequent readings of a work would make the story even better and richer is one of the ultimate goals in writing because you know your work has value that can be experienced again and again.  Now, of course, I need to put The Scarlet Letter on my list of classics that I’m either rereading or reading for the first time.

Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History – Review

Not too long ago I wrote a post about vaccines, that I had started reading and researching about them and that the criticisms regarding vaccines were hitting home with me. Since then, I’ve been following the “anti-vaxx” movement and reading some of the articles, books, etc., that detail that side of the argument. I’ve also looked some into the “pro” side, as well, however, I don’t find that side quite as interesting, just because it is the default view everyone seems to have. It is the view that I used to have and I didn’t really care about the evidence that vaccines were safe and effective. I, like most people, just believed what I was told.

If you look into the anti-vaccine movement, the first thing you realize is that these people  were at some point pro-vaccine until something happened. Some they knew or they themselves, had a reaction that made them question just how safe vaccines are. Or they got the flu shot or another shot and got really sick with similar symptoms shortly after, prompting them to question how effective vaccines are. The second thing you realize is that legitimate or not, right or wrong or not, the anti-vaccine movement has an enormous amount of studies, examples, historical accounts, personal testimonies, and other such literature to back up their reasoning. At some point being pro-vaccine, I realized it was foolish of me to keep that stance when it wasn’t resting on any true knowledge I had and also foolish to think the other side had no validity when I had never fully researched or looked into their arguments. We fall into the same traps with many aspects of our lives, but vaccines are especially interesting.  For most on the pro-side the idea of even questioning vaccines seems ludicrous. As a Christian, I realized it is not the questioning that is ludicrous, but holding up vaccines, scientists, doctors, drug companies, government, and the like as equal to God. No, scratch that, we’ve placed them even higher, asserting that vaccines are so safe and effective, they must not even be questioned.

God himself welcomes us questioning and wrestling with Him. If it’s okay with God to test His scriptures and see if they are true, why not mortal man-made vaccines?  I tell you, I don’t think even Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propagandist, has anything on the pro-vaccine spell cast on the world. People will come up with the most bizarre rationalizations in order to never put any vaccine in a list of possible (only a possible cause!) causes of a negative health issue. Some of those rationalizations may include: it’s all genetics, the human race is simply deteriorating, the non-vaccinated are spreading more diseases. Let’s just take that last one. Think about it. You are not vaccinated for smallpox. Does that mean you have smallpox? Is this really a reasonable position to hold, or are we avoiding really looking at vaccines and how they work? Vaccines certainly are not responsible for every health malady in the world, but it’s truly odd they are rarely considered a cause, especially when a person just had a shot and then has a major health issue like a seizure or brain swelling. Actually, we do worse than not questioning, we are told these reactions to vaccines are “normal.” With more chronic health maladies, we easily jump to medications and drugs as possible causes, but never vaccines, even though they should be considered if we’re doing a thorough investigation. Even if you still end up agreeing vaccines are great, I think it’s a good practice to look into them to make sure you have the facts, and that includes taking a long, hard look at the massive evidence the anti-vaccine side has that vaccines are actually quite a problem.

If you’re looking for fact-based arguments, Dr. Suzanne Humphries is a good place to start. She’s a nephrologist who also used to be pro-vaccine until her patients mentioned they had kidney problems after getting the flu shot. Instead of blowing them off, she took their complaints seriously and was surprised by the hostility she received from her coworkers merely for considering vaccines a factor in this. The hostility was especially surprising to her, as she knew had she been questioning a medication they would all have said of course they should stop the medication, do more research, tests, etc. In essence, medications were allowed to be a cause of kidney issues, but not vaccines. Vaccines were safe and effective and had eradicated both smallpox and polio, never mind that the complaint was with the flu shot. So Humphries started to look into the history of the smallpox and polio vaccines, and she found that what we had all been told was far different than what actually happened.

Of all the people on the side of the anti-vaccine movement, I find Dr. Humphries to be the most persuasive. She has a practical air about her and has made it her life’s work to research health and vaccines. If you don’t like reading, she has hours and hours of her talks and speeches on vaccines, Vitamin C, and general health issues on Youtube.

Dissolving Illusions, by both Dr. Humphries and Roman Bystrianyk, another vaccine researcher, is a fairly quick read. It first lays out why they wrote the book and how they fell into researching vaccines. It then launches into the historical account of just how dirty everything used to be, especially in the 1800s and early 1900s. This is the basis for their case that it was public cleanliness in the environment, water, food, and health practices (the doctors washing their hands) that actually caused the massive impact to the disease death toll.  The graphs are certainly hard to argue with, a ski slope of falling death rates, and close to the bottom, only when fear of death of the disease was near non-existent, did vaccines enter into the picture. I would say for most of us, that fact was likely not mentioned at all in school.

They then go through vaccine after vaccine, starting with smallpox and show, with historical examples, just how unsafe and ineffective they actually are. One fascinating thing I learned was that the smallpox vaccine caused several hand, foot, and mouth outbreaks in both animals and people. What I learned with polio is that they changed the way polio was diagnosed after the vaccine was put into public use, thus falsely making it look like the vaccine lowered the polio rate. We still have polio, it’s just categorized as Guillain Barré syndrome and other diseases. I learned that physical therapy contributed largely to the restored health for those who did have immobile limbs. There was also some disturbing connections made theorizing that tonsillectomies and other medical procedures were the actual cause of the “outbreaks” in school children every year.  With measles I learned that good nutrition and sunlight are the best ways to fight it off, especially Vitamin A (it depletes your levels severely, causing blindness in some), Vitamin D and Vitamin C.

Dissolving Illusions makes a strong case that vaccines may be more harmful than helpful. It makes a strong case that cleanliness, good health, and nutrition are our best defenses against malady, better than any manmade medication. That is the positive.

The negative, is how much the book highlights the lies of both government entities and the medical professionals that invented, still invent, and to this day promote vaccines that they knew from day one were neither safe nor effective, especially compared with other, more natural options. It shows the reader their own ignorance. How many people puffing up their chests and declaring all vaccines should be mandatory know even a tenth of this information? How many people are aware that just like the vaccine lies started on day one, so did the anti-vaccine movement? In England the only thing that stopped forced smallpox vaccinations and jail time, was voting in politicians who believed in freedom of choice.

And the book barely touches on all of the massive reactions, side effects, and lifelong health struggles for the vaccine injured today. And we are arrogant enough to think that the non-vaccinated are spreading disease? What great mountain of evidence do we have for this, exactly? How many people even understand that you are injecting a disease into your body when getting a vaccine and that you are also vulnerable to that disease as well as being capable of passing on that disease while it’s going through your body and building antibodies? In addition, the book also talks about antibodies and lays out a case that this is no true measure of immunity or eradication. It also indicates that medicine and science still have a long way to go in fully understanding our immune systems and how disease affects them.

If the information in Dissolving Illusions is true, then it is truly staggering how much we have been lied to. It’s such a huge, incomprehensible lie, and whether it was made in malice, for profit, or just wishful thinking, the reason seems almost irrelevant. How do you even begin to reteach people the truth when everyone’s been so brainwashed by lies that only at a severe turning point or crisis will they even question vaccines? The good thing is, lies can’t last forever, because, well, they’re lies, and the truth eventually rears its head. Due to so, so many reactions and problems today from vaccines, people are waking up more and more every day. The anti-vaccine movement would be happy if we could simply actually properly study vaccines and make them truly safe and effective. The unsettling conclusion from Dissolving Illusions is that even that desire may be a pipe dream. The big question I have is, are vitamins the answer? Are cleanliness, good nutrition, and sunlight, the collective miracle pill we’ve all been looking for? How strange it would be if we were to find that we’ve been injecting ourselves with poison to ward off disease only to ignore that simply caring for ourselves and our bodies would give us the best health we could ever want or need, at least on this side of heaven?

In doing this reading into vaccines, I’m mostly on the “anti” side now. The last time I had to get a vaccine (the flu shot aside), I didn’t I had much of a choice at the time because I didn’t have a record to prove I already had the shot. I thought it would be no big deal to get an additional shot, and a few weeks later I was very, very sick. My immune system really felt like it had taken a severe blow in a way I’d never felt before, and it took a long time for me to fully recover. Now, I’m not saying it was definitely the vaccine, but it was a possibility often nagging at the back of my mind, so much so that much later I was eager to watch the documentary Vaxxed and find out more about this anti-vaccine movement and what they thought were the problems with vaccines.

My view on health is different today. I’m more careful of what I eat, what I drink, and more aware of how much sleep and sunlight I’m getting. Since vaccines ultimately cause inflammation in the body, I try to destress as much as possible, too, get outside, get walking and do other exercise when I can. The difference is, mindfulness. It takes few brain cells to get injected with the latest vaccine, or to pop the latest drug, but it takes dedication and persistence to truly be invested in one’s health. Parents instinctively know much of this, as they are tasked with nurturing and promoting the good health of their children. For us who are childless, we need to be parents of our own bodies and treat ourselves with care and nurturing, too. Even if vaccines were totally safe and effective, how could a quick injection possibly be the ultimate answer to health in a world where anything worth anything has to be fought and strived for? This question can also be applied to the numerous health remedies of the natural medicine industry, and even Dissolving Illusions‘ touting of Vitamins A, C, and D. We can’t just pop supplements, either, and think they are going to be as effective longterm as getting real sunlight and eating real fruits and vegetables.

I have to say the best thing about this book is finding how much there is to read and study. I also really appreciate the times I live in and the fact that our environment, food, and water are all so clean today. I appreciate the fact that we still have a choice in whether to get vaccines or not and pray they will never be forced on anyone again. As a Christian, I appreciate the fact that many of the loudest voices in this struggle for truth when it comes to vaccines are also Christians. Christianity teaches us that the truth isn’t some mysterious thing only for the authorities, or experts, or those in power. Truth is something that God wants everyone to know, even (and perhaps especially) lowly commoners.

Stories this coming month

As I’m really trying to push myself on revising and correcting Trolls for Dust Season 2, this upcoming month, I may not have many stories to review. There are a few that I do want to, however. With movies or dramas I usually get on a kick of watching all projects by a certain actor or director or writer. Right now I’m in the middle of a Ji Chang Wook kick and found a place to watch Empress Ki. It’s a long series, over 50 episodes, so I probably won’t finish it in March, but wow, epic, awesome story so far and also starring one of my favorite actresses Ha Ji Won.

In doing more vaccine-related reading, I wolfed down Dr. Suzanne Humphries’ book Rising from the Dead and am almost halfway through Dissolving Illusions. These are not easy books to read, especially if, like me, you’ve thought your whole life (without really having actual knowledge of the issue) that vaccines are always safe and effective. These books call into question much of our modern medical practices and have historical evidence and testimony to back it up. Think the pro-vax/anti-vax emotionally charged debate started only with supposed frauds like Andrew Wakefield? Wrong. It’s been the same debate since day one of the small pox vaccine, only back then those who refused vaccine or questioned them were jailed, fined, and basically had no freedom on the issue. Any strides they made in the direction of choice in the matter had to be fought for. And the pro-vax side was just as arrogant and mean-spirited as they are today. And also as unquestioning of their own side as they are today. What’s most amusing today is that a lot of the claims that it was a vaccine that brought the rates for such-and-such a disease down are really a matter of correlation, which today we are told by proud pro-vaxxers does not ever equal causation. Dr. Humphries’ books indicate that to conclude better living conditions, cleanliness and overall public hygiene contributed the most to the decline in diseases, is also valid. Many vaccines, for example, were introduced well after many of these diseases were on a downturn due to public sanitation. The evidence that it was vaccines isn’t actually as strong as promoted. That doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccines didn’t and don’t work in some cases, but their benefits may have been largely overstated. This book is truly about dissolving illusions, and as a result is really hard to read. If you have any interest into why anti-vaxxers are certain they are onto the truth, this book is a good place to start in understanding why they think that way.

For March, I also have kindly been loaned the next couple of books in Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince series and am curious to see where it goes.

And lastly, I am re-reading my own Trolls for Dust series, both books one and two with the hope to get this much-delayed book two out for everyone to read in print. I also have another short series I am working on, and if it works out, may be able to publish that before the end of the year. But, who knows? I’m always hopeful about these things at the beginning and then other things clamor for my attention.

The Thief: Book Review

There’s a lot of buzz circulating about the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Although I enjoyed the first book, The Thief, it very much seemed a simple opening act to a far larger, grander story, so I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Many YA fantasy series tend to take off from Greek and Roman culture and mythology, so I can’t say this series is very unique in that aspect, but the narration is done well to the point that once one finishes the story, one wants to go back and analyze it from the beginning. As a whole, the world of the series is well defined, which helps aid the slow pace of the story. The pacing is probably the most troubling aspect. Nothing “happens” for long periods of time, but, again, in going back, one would realize a lot happened, or, at least, a lot of information was given. The problem is that many readers may give up far before the ending, but as the series as a whole is getting a lot of good buzz and recommendations, I think that was a risk the author was willing to take.

This book reminds me of a similar tale regarding the narration called The False Prince by  Jennifer A. Nielsen. That book also has some trouble with keeping the energy up, but is well plotted.

Spoilers:

Both series involve unreliable narrators and both use that element well. It’s annoying when such narration is used, but there’s no “twist in the tale,” as they say (see my review of Here Lies Daniel Tate). Both stories are also smaller openings in a much wider story. Starting out simple and building is a great way to build an audience at the same time. I tend to like jump starting the deeper plot aspects right away, but there is nothing so satisfying as a slow burn of a tale and The Thief is that.

Here Lies Daniel Tate: Book Review (spoilers)

Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill has a great plot: Missing kid turns up years later, but can’t remember much about his past. Bit by bit, he tries to understand his family and what happened at the time of his disappearance. My first thought was The Face on the Milk Carton for a new generation!

No. But it’s much worse than that. The real plot is something else. Con man fakes being a missing kid now in his teens in order to get out of trouble. The main character in the story is a liar. Usually, a story involving an unreliable narrator leaves you questioning everything you just saw or read. If this was what the author was going for in this particular tale, for me it fell flat. The first few chapters promised a roller coaster ride that never really manifested. I read about halfway through in one sitting…and then forgot entirely about the story for days before realizing, “oh, yeah, I never finished reading that.”

So what went wrong? First, I just want to say that All Our Yesterdays, also by Terrill is fantastic. That story had me transfixed. With Here Lies Daniel Tate, it seemed like a great idea that wasn’t executed well. The characters were always viewed from a distance by our narrator, and because of that an emotional link is missing between the characters and the readers. The swearing annoyed me, but most swearing in books and movies does. I can understand trying to be realistic, but for me, it just got in the way of the story.

All that aside, after page 100 or so, Here Lies Daniel Tate gets really boring. Nothing happens. Okay, he goes to school, that’s what happens. And for writers, this is death, your story dies if your readers lose interest. Finishing the book was torture, it was no fun to read the rest and I didn’t understand why a vital component was left out: Keep your audience on their toes. Always make things happen faster or before the audience thinks they should. This rule applies especially to modern audiences, many of whom, like me, have a short attention span. I think a good editor would have spotted this problem. A good editor would have also spotted that unreliable narrator set up at the beginning, never delivered the twist calling the whole story into question. An author that does twists extremely well is Ian McEwan of Atonement fame. For a case study in unreliable narrators, please read that book or even just see the film. Another wonderful unreliable narrator book is The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, and I reviewed that a February or two ago. I’m not saying every unreliable narrator has to end the tale with, “whelp, I lied…or did I?” but it’s just so, so much fun when they do.

Here Lies Daniel Tate had potential that was never realized, and I sort of wish we could dump it in the time machine from All Our Yesterdays to rewrite itself and try again.