The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things
By John Connolly
Titles are important, you know. As are names. If you're going to take the trouble to create an entire world, with people, places and things all of your creation, you should be just as meticulous with your names as you are with your plot points. I can't say how many times a perfectly good book that is ruined by poorly named characters. Why, why, would a writer pick a name that no one can pronounce? If Robert Jordan were alive, I'd be glaring in his direction right now. I recall one book, (The Sleep of Stone, by Louise Cooper,in case anyone is keeping track) whose main character's name was Ghryszmyxychtys. What? Did she just pick letters out of a hat? And how many of us struggled through the first three Harry Potter books, wondering about poor Hermione until J.K. Rowling worked the pronounciation of her name into the plot of The Goblet of Fire? I know I did.
Freshly off of my soapbox, I was wandering aimlessly through the bookstore, as I am commonly known to do, and had found my way into the Fantasy/SciFi section (naturally). My eye was immediately drawn to a flaming-red cover, printed all over with black vines. 'Oh Pretty!' I squeed, and picked up the book in question. It was 'The Book of Lost Things'and I immediately fell in love with the title. A book, you say? Of Things? Lost ones? Sounds fascinating! My interest was piqued, so I started reading.
The book tells the story of David, a young boy teetering on the brink of teenage-ness (some people would call this adolescence, but I've never been one to conform), whose mother has died. Mourning her loss, and dealing with the fact that his father has remarried, David retreats into the world of books, his favorites, naturally, being fairy tales. He gets so wrapped up in the stories and in his own head, that eventually the books start talking to him. Neat! Talking books! Some books are mad, some are deaf, depressed, or just fond of hurling insults.
So, what with the dead mother, talking books, and battling a mild case of OCD, David is having a pretty rough time. His grasp on reality starts to weaken. One night, he ends up wandering around a garden, finds a crack in the wall with his dead mother's voice coming out of it, so he decides to investigate. Through the crack in the wall he goes, and when he gets to the other side, he's in a completely different world. Oooooooohhhhh, how mystical! I hear monks chanting! And where did all of this fog come from? Yeah. Um- Mr. Connolly? Sir? I'd like you to meet Mr. Lewis. C.S. Lewis. He's an author as well- perhaps you might know his work? You should, as you just copied his story. This is actually the biggest issue I had with this book. I've read it before. In fact, I've read it several times. The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland...they're all the same basic plotline: child is unhappy, child finds a portal of some sort to take them to a different world where they learn the value of what they left behind. Don't get me wrong-Connolly is a GOOD writer- he's funny, descriptive, and can set a great scene, but I think he just tried to work too much into the story.
However, any lack (or surplus) of vision on the author's part is pretty easily ignored because the 'world' he created...well, it' just FUN. Or not fun, depending on how you look at it. It's basically a place where every fairy tale and myth is a reality- but not in the cute, Disney-ed up version you might be familiar with. It's a dark place, and quite unfriendly. To go into a lot of detail here would be revealing major spoilers, but suffice it to say that you'll never, EVER, think of Little Red Riding Hood the same way again. There's plenty of death and dismemberment (and re-memberment, but you'll need to read the book to figure that one out), which serves to keep things spicy. And then, of course, there is The Crooked Man (another good name, BTW). Arguably, he could be called the villain, but he's actually more of a catalyst than anything else. He kind of lurks around in the story, not becoming an active part of the plotline until pretty far in, but his presence adds a definite creepiness factor, and the desire to find out exactly who an what he is definitely drives the plot forward. From the way he's described, he must look a lot like this guy.
For those who love fast-paced, action-filled books, you'll be quite satisfied here. This is a solid book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you're looking for an introspective, character-driven story...weeeell, you may be slightly disappointed. But, of course, that's just my opinion. Read this book! If you think I'm crazy or illiterate, please let me know! I welcome any and all dissenting arguments, so bring it on.
Tired of the same old fantasy and sci-fi books? Care to keep up with the Oracle in her quest for wordy-goodness? Follow along so we'll have something to talk about! Here's what we have on deck for next time:
Windhaven by George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle