Best of the 00’s – The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Terror, The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is Dog Breeder Hamlet. I genuinely mean that. “No one has written about the heart wrenching world of puppy breeding,” Wroblewski must have thought to himself, “and that’s the only life I know. But I’m not a professional writer. How could I possibly plot and outline a novel of my own?”

“Why don’t you lift all that,” asked his super intelligent German Shepard Eggshell, using dog sign language or maybe telepathy, “just straight up steal it from old Willie Shakes?”

“Cool idea, Eggshell,” D-man screamed, “but I’ve only read Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.”

Look it’s a fine book but once you see the parallels you know exactly how it will end

The Terror by Dan Simmons is a fictionalized account of a failed expedition to find the Northwest Passage in the 1840s. There are true-to-life elements, such as the final fate of the ships and crew, and some delightful make-em-ups, like an enormous white murder-demon that French kisses Eskimos. 

I was cold the whole time I was reading it, which I think is a testament to Simmons’ facility with language. It was also suspenseful and fairly engrossing. 

It wasn’t perfect, of course. A character is suddenly revealed to have a special ability about halfway through, for no really good reason except foreshadowing. 

The main flaw I found with the book was the passages of period writing, the overall sense that we were reading a period novel or account, but which contained some frank sexuality and other topics which never would have been written about in the 19th century. It was jarring.

Good, but long

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger has been a movie, so do you need me to explain it? Henry is an inadvertent time traveler who periodically warps back and forth in time, and Claire is the long-suffering title character. The premise is strong and interesting. The writing is solid. The central romance is a little sappy but not to distraction. 

The only thing I found off putting about the writing was the narrative structure. It is written almost as a series of diary entries, though they are not. It is almost in chronological order from Claire’s point of view, though again, not quite. When you put the two techniques together, it becomes obvious at every moment that these sections are fictions, and that their presentation order was chosen for emotional effect. 

The worst thing about this book is its format, though. There is no kindle edition. There are a couple of articles about the book becoming available as an ebook on some new, third party ebook service, but frankly this is a stunningly bad decision. Niffenegger said some things once about waiting until ebook a were mature and beautiful and holding her masterpiece against that happy day, but I read the book in paperback, and there isn’t a god damned unique or special thing about the typesetting. It isn’t full of pictures or tables, or crazy House of Leaves style annotations. You could read this as a .txt file without losing anything. Net result: instead of an ebook sale like everything else on this list, I checked out a beaten old paperback from the library. Enjoy your no dollars, Audrey. 

It’s fine but the author is a real piece of shit

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