Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: The Devil in Pew Number Seven

So this was a bit of a risk, but I did enjoy it. The writing is pretty bad, and it is stuffed with sentimentality from start to finish. The first third or so is by far the worst of it. It gets better once the story gets going.

It seems to have been pretty well researched, for which I was grateful. The events of the story are remarkable in themselves, which mostly redeems the bad writing in my opinion. It is a true story told by the woman who lived it. The fact that she doesn't do a great job of telling her story doesn't diminish the value of the story itself.

The fundamental difficulty is that she was a child when the events took place. If one of the adults in the story had written this instead, I think we may have gotten a tighter account. As it is, a childish perspective pervades the whole telling.

So I guess this is sort of a tepid recommendation. If you are intrigued by the idea of a church-related pseudo-true crime story that happened in NC, you might enjoy this book. I'd just say don't make the mistake another reviewer did by getting the audiobook!

Review: The Way of Kings

Overrated. I hadn't read Sanderson before, but given the number of books he has to his name, I expected much better writing. A lot of the dialog is bad. His attempts at humor are mostly annoying. He jumps from character to character, and is constantly inside the current character's head. There are ample doses of inner monologue.

It's not all bad, though. I respect his ambitious attempt at world building. I think this would redeem the book entirely except that I don't think he quite sold it. There are too many little notes of discord for the world to really hold together and feel like a real place. The dialog was a major barrier here.

I did find his treatment of religion interesting, although it falls short of any real poignancy mainly because it has no continuity with our world. Should my sympathies lie with Vorinism or with Jasnah's atheism? I don't know. (I also couldn't stop thinking of Gene Wolfe's Vironism in The Book of the Long Sun, a comparison that is not favorable to Sanderson.)

I did find the characters mostly likable, despite being constantly in their heads. And the last 100 pages or so really kicks it up a notch. The book is very slow-paced, which would be fine if it were better written. But once things start happening quickly, I found it easier to overlook the flaws. I'm on the fence about whether to continue the series.