Books in Brief

 I read a capsule review of this book and found the premise intriguing, so I went out and bought the book!  Ron Currie’s novel is not the most uplifting narrative, but he does address aspects and excesses in our society in a powerful manner. The novel begins with the Big Bang of God dying — after manifesting herself as a Dinka woman (with a rather nasty wound) in Dafur.  God is killed by a rival African tribe during a mass attack on the village and her corpse is consumed by wild dogs – who begin to speak in Hebrew and Greek a day after feasting on the semi-divine body. But that’s only part of the disjointed story. Through a number of semi-related stories, Currie’s novel explores the aftershocks of God’s death by highlighting mass despair resulting in suicides, people looking for “God alternatives” (i.e., worshiping children or the talking dogs), the loss of intimacy in relationships, wars over rival humanist ideologies, and mindless consumerism. When those themes are lined up, it’s pretty clear that Currie is saying that human nature, even when faced with the profound loss of a creator’s life, does not change when it comes to our basic instincts and cultural mores.    

Okay, full disclosure here!  This is the only novel in the Harry Potter series I’ve read.  I’ve seen the films, so I know the basic storyline, but as anyone who has seen their favorite books adapted to the screen knows, it’s just not the same.  We have to wait a few years to see this book translated to the screen, but in the meantime I get the pleasure of assessing the current book as a newbie to Rowling’s prose and storytelling.  While I find Rowling is able to move the story forward at a good pace, she often gets bogged down in stretching the story out (sometimes needlessly) to the point where fatigue sets in.  When the inevitable showdown between Harry and Voldemort happens, there was so much build up that conclusion was a bit of a letdown mostly because one could be reasonably sure that things were going to turn out okay.  However, with the success of each book in the series, Rowling and her publisher must have figured that “more is better” and packed each novel with more fluff than necessary.  While I’m satisfied with knowing the conclusion of Harry’s story, getting there was an endurance test.

I haven’t finished this book yet, but I must say the Nathaniel Philbrick has an impressive ability to tell the story of the Puritans and the Native Americans in a compelling manner.  So much so, that Mayflower reads very much like a novel. Philbrick’s economy of style and good use of the data keeps the story both informative and even thrilling at times.  Mayflower will certainly appeal to those who love history, but it will also appeal to those who usually gravitate to fiction (like my wife).   🙂

–PK

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