After reading the excerpt and seeing the 48 5-star reviews on Amazon, I was excited to get this book and start in on it. The opening is vivid and visceral--it's the excerpt I read. (The jacket copy is likewise excellent, by the way.) Beyond the opening, there are some engaging scenes--family stuff involving the main character (Douglas), his dad, and his little brother, and sometimes friend-of-the-family Jack. In between and around those scenes was a lot of stuff that made me roll my eyes, or wish that it had been handled more...deftly. The author had to set up some special things about the main character, but they went over like lead balloons with me. And then the five pages of Jack explaining quantum physics to Douglas....
And, you know, some of the writing is just really, really good--but it's offset by really, really flat stuff like this:As we drove down my street, something seemed out of order. Even in the dark I could see several unfamiliar vehicles parked in front of our house, one of which was a police car.
I recently read a blog post by Matthew Cheney in which Cheney was trying to pinpoint what it is that bothers him about many contemporary novels these days. Here are some of the highlights from his post and the comments to it:
"too much...intrusive analysis"
"my brain isn't being engaged enough"
"the abstraction sends my readerly brain down paths it finds dull and vacant"
"The details in stories seem to be presented too clearly, too obviously"
"Background information that should be made important through implication, not assertion."
"every time I pick [up Dan Simmmons' THE TERROR] and try to read the first page, I feel as if he's just telling me all there is to know, leaving no room for inference or any sense of richness beyond the bare words"
"part of it might be the sense that the 'author' (as in the outside agency and not merely the story writer) is too visible in the text, almost as if the gears were seen poking through a windup toy, ruining the simulacrum of a 'live' story"
"distracted from the story itself by the explanatory intrusions and other various small niggling bits that don't permit me to forget "that little man behind the curtain"
(The full blog post is here
I quote these because they so well describe my experience with DISCIPLINE.
And what frustrates me most is that, judging from the bits that do
work, Paco Ahlgren had the potential to make this a fantastic book. Missed potential gets under my skin like nothing else.
Maybe he'll hit closer to his potential with his next book. Unfortunately, if it's a sequel to DISCIPLINE (one of the Amazon reviews mentioned he was working on one), I'll have to take an automatic pass on it.