Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Upright Man

UprightThe Upright Man by Michael Marshall


This book, the sequel to The Straw Men, picks up with the lives of Ward Hopkins, John Zandt, and Nina Baynum after having uncovered a shadowy organization that followed a malicious agenda to purify the human race. Life hasn’t been good for the three of them, and it doesn’t get any better as they try to track down Ward’s long lost twin brother. If you’ve read The Straw Men, then you know why they’re trying to find Paul; if you haven’t read that book, then I’m not going to spoil it for you now.

Michael Marshall isn’t known for his upbeat, feel-good stories of life, and that hasn’t changed since his last book.  His nihilistic, hopeless outlook exists still in The Upright Man, and I struggle to come to terms with it, as I do with all his books.  His books tend to put me in a funk, but I find myself coming back to them, because he’s such a good writer.  Sure, he may stumble sometimes (I thought he had jumped the shark with one subplot in this book), but the promise of his brilliance, through “The Book of Irrational Numbers,” will bring me back to his work.

The author also has a great sense of human behavior, which he demonstrates with lengthy narrative asides where he expounds on what he thinks about people.  They grow a little tiresome (they occur frequently), but he manages to fit these asides into the overall story.  Plus, the way he presents them, it’s sometimes hard to disagree with him.

My biggest complaint with this book, though, is that it’s the second in a trilogy, but it doesn’t really follow much of what was put forth in The Straw Men.  It’s still compelling, and it’s still a successful book on its own, but it didn’t seem to follow up with the overall conspiracy theme that was the heart of the first book.  There are moments in the book where the author touches on these issues, but the primary story exists a little outside of the larger story that I expected this book to follow.  As it is, I feel like I’m going to have to wait for the third book to pick up that story, and it’s a little aggravating.

To be fair, though, there are aspects of the story that will be confusing to someone who hasn’t read the previous novel, but they’re few and far between.  I wish he had spent more time with that story.

Still, that complaint only exists within the context of the series; as a stand-alone novel, it’s fine, and is probably a higher class of thriller than you would usually find on a best-seller list.   If you like that sort of book, and you don’t mind a little dark introspection in your fiction, it’s worth your time to track down The Straw Men and start there. Marshall is a talented author, and shouldn’t be missed.


May 16, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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