Saturday, May 20, 2006

Review: Living Next Door to the God of Love

I finished reading Justina Robson's Living Next Door to the God of Love. Now, I'll be honest. I bought the book because I read the review on scifi.com and went "that is an amazing title. I will buy that book just for the title."

Some people on Amazon.com have suggested that the title is the best part of the book. I disagree. Damien is the best part of the book. After all, who doesn't love a bipolar a gay elf? I do. However, I wouldn't argue that he should have been in the book more. It was the clever under-use of his character that kept him from becoming annoying. Instead he remained a bright spot that made me go "yay! Damien!" each time he appeared in the narrative.

Ok. Seriously. *ahem* I really wanted to like this book, because it started out so strong. One of its strengths is a collection of well-developed characters. (Yet, I can't help but feel that the first-person perspective is conning me into feeling more connected to them that I really should have.) So points to Robson for that.

Also points for a deeply developed setting. The world is crystal clear in her mind, a breathing place of multiple dimensions. I just wish it was as clear in my mind. This is apparently a second or third book in a universe she's developed—no I don't know what the first one was, no I don't know if it's connected.

This created a huge problem for me, as many concepts go completely unexplained. I'm still not sure what an Engine is, or how a Sidebar relates to Earth. I'm not clear on how you get between them. I thought I understood what a Forged was, but if I had to explain it to someone, I don't believe I could.

I don't think it's a matter of Robson being unable or unwilling to explain. Lord knows that with about fifty pages to go she spends fifteen slapping in a heavy-handed bit of exposition. This disappointed me, since for the beginning of the book she'd been so good about not spewing backstory across the page. It just seemed...lazy. I didn't believe the set-up for receiving this information, but the worst thing about the backstory: I found I would have rather read it than the story I was reading.

Oh, sure, a puppy licks your face at the end of the book... but the (non-)events that lead to this "happy" ending are vague and unexplained.

This book makes me think of the first season of Lost. Well-produced, great character-driven writing, lots of building up with various intriguing events and concepts. Then we go into the hatch (re: reach the end of the book) and it falls flat because all those questions don't seem to be answered.

That's what Living Next Door to the God of Love felt like. Cool character-driven writing that ultimately disappoints because....nothing happens. I don't have a sense of the events causing a lasting impact on the characters.

I love character driven writing, but I also need there to be some kind of ultimate destination . Especially in a novel that seems to be building towards a universe-altering climax.

Bottom line? Unlike Lost, there's no following seasons to expand and/or answer the mysteries presented to the reader. There's just this disappointed feeling that I was going to go to Disneyland, but when we got there all the really good rides were shut down for repairs.

Living Next Door to the God of Love is available from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.ca.

2 comments:

Rachel Vincent said...

Wow, this is a very well-written review.

And, on another topic all together: I love Lost!

c.rooney said...

Thank you, Rachel! This was my practice review, and the first one where I made a real effort to be professional.

I'll look forward to reading and reviewing Stray next year. :)

I love Lost, too. I'm so excited for tomorrow's finale! Finally we learn what caused the plane to crash.