Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Kite Runner

KiteThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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It’s not like me to read award-winning books, unless they’re YA fiction of some kind.  But my wife read this book and told me that I had to read it.  That was enough of an incentive for me.

By now, I think everyone knows about this book, one way or another.  Either you heard about it after its release, or you heard about “them” making a movie out of it, or you heard the controversy surrounding the release of the movie.  One way or the other, I’m guessing that this is old news for much of you.  But if you’ve heard about the book, and relegated it to the periphery of your interest, then start thinking about it again, because this is a good book to read.

The last book I read that had this feel to it was The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak.  Both books have a very tragic feel, but it’s very much a foregone conclusion as you start the book that these will be tragic stories: One is set in Nazi-occupied Germany; the other is set in Afghanistan.  You don’t have to be a history or political science major to get the implications of those settings.  Despite the inherent tragedy of the stories, though, each is a hopeful analysis of human nature.  Sometimes we just have to make it through some of our darkest moments to make it to that grace.

One last aside, and then I’ll get to the story: A few years ago, I read a neat essay about the movie The Shawshank Redemption.  The author said that the movie was a great pick-me-up movie.  She anticipated the scoffing, and went into her “No, really!” mode.  The caveat was that you had to make it through the entire movie to reach the payoff of the pick-me-up.  And she’s right.  The Kite Runner is one of those kinds of books.

The Kite Runner is about loyalty, courage, and redemption.  It’s about suffering some of the worst things in the world, but only vicariously.  It’s about friendship, family, faith, and endurance.  It’s about the human condition.  It’s … well, it’s hard to really pin it down.  I expected a character-driven story when I started the book, and was surprised when it seemed to have a compelling plot.  But regardless of the story’s drive, it was a book that I couldn’t stop reading.  It haunted me with its imagery, and kept me thinking about the characters.  I played the “What will happen?” game when I was away from the book.  At first I liked the main character.  Then I hated him.  And then I liked him again.  It was a tough ride.

This is also a book with some brutal imagery.  This is a book set in Afghanistan, partly during the Taliban rule, so it comes with all the territory you would imagine from that setting.  This is what makes the book tragic, but as I mentioned above, the book wouldn’t have its redeeming, hopeful outlook without having to trudge its way through the tragedy.

If you’ve put off reading the book, do so no longer.  It’s definitely worth reading, despite what your usual reading proclivities may be.

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March 28, 2008 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | 6 Comments

Intruders

IntrudersIntruders by Michael Marshall

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I’ve written about Michael Marshall before on this blog, so there’s no point in re-hashing his dark, nihilistic outlook on life.  Let’s just say that it’s present in this book here, contrasted nicely (and not a slight bit oddly) by his apt observations on humanity.  This is a man who knows people, and probably has a good finger on what makes them work.  He’s also depressing as hell, and when you’re already in a funk, he’s probably not the best man to turn to.

The fact is, I’ve been pretty quiet lately.  The blog hasn’t been that active lately, and according to my records, this is only the third book I’ve read this year.  That’s not so good for me.  I’ve moved to a different state, and moves being what they are, I’m still adjusting.  That I’m still adjusting six months after the move is indicative of my current mental state.  I’m not suicidal, but I am down, in a funk, what-have-you.  So my reading has seen a decline lately.

The last two books I’ve chosen to read have NOT been the proper selections.  They’re both fairly dark and hopeless.  Now, my wife wants me to read The Kite Runner, so I’m sure I’ll be a devastated wreck at the end of that book.  After that, I plan to read some My Pretty Pony and Karen Kingsbury books.

No, not really; I’m not THAT desperate.

As dark as he is, Michael Marshall is a good author.  His stories are always tense and compelling, and the darkness gives them a more serious edge than the typical thrillers you might encounter among the bestsellers.  In this one, an ex-cop is approached by an old high-school friend, now a lawyer, who is trying to unravel a mystery concerning a man whose family was murdered, the experiments he was running in his basement, a missing ten year-old girl, and a vast conspiracy dating back hundreds of years.   Anyone who’s read Marshall before will know that conspiracies are nothing new in his world, so this should coma as no surprise to those readers.  Shoot, that isn’t even a spoiler; it’s pretty plain from the get-go that something vast is underway.  True-to-form, it gets your attention and will keep you reading.

Unfortunately, the explanation for it all is pretty lame.  That doesn’t come into play in the novel until the last 75 pages or so, so there’s a lot of good stuff to get through before you get there, but for all that set-up, you might wonder why the pay-off is so small.  It will require a significant suspension of disbelief to accept it, and maybe because of the tone of the novel, I was less likely to find it acceptable.  Who knows?  Just be prepared for some disappointment.

That being said, the final ending (the denouement, maybe?) will leave you unsettled, like a good horror novel should.  Depending on how vivid your imagination is, you might find yourself wondering how real the events are.  It gets a little under your skin and into your brain, and if only for that being so effective, the disappointing explanation works.  Like Hot Fuzz becomes a pastiche of itself just as you think that the story is too ludicrous to contain itself, The Intruders manages to pull out something deep and affecting from what appears to be stupid and contrived.  So despite my reservations, I’d recommend the book.

Just make sure you have the Prozac ready before reading.

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | 1 Comment