Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Burning Soul by John Connolly

Gray sea, gray sky, but fire in the woods and trees aflame.

There are a couple things wrong with this sentence and one thing right about it. Let's analyze, shall we? Gray sky is dangerously bordering on opening a book with the weather. Google "Should I begin my epic award-winning novel with the weather?" and you will get laughed at. But this sentence is not quite about the weather, just enough not about the weather to make you wish it were. What else is wrong: gray sea and woods on fire? Um, wait a second, where is this happening, on a beach with a forest or in a forest on a beach? Or perhaps the setting encompasses an entire state? 

Yet it embraces conflict of a sort.

The first paragraph is a whooping nine sentences, compound and complex sentences galore. It's long, almost the whole first page. 

Random sentence from first paragraph:

There was mortality in the air, borne on the first hint of winter breezes, the threatening chill of them, and the animals prepared for the coming snows.

What a horrible sentence. Why not: Mortality was (or lingered, hung etc.) in the air. Nevertheless, it sounds cool. But the rest of this sentence sounds like it was written by someone who was paying as  much attention to writing that line as I am to writing this review: while watching the hockey game, cooking dinner and cutting my toenails.  ...the threatening chill of them... Um, of what? Breezes are made up of threatening chills? Are the animals being threatened? This is where the sentence falls flat on its face. What is this sentence, some kind of weird hybrid of vague ideas (mortality, winter breezes, threatening chills, animal preparation) joined together with cunning punctuation?

Anyway, the first paragraph is all about the wildlife and the tribulations and joys they suffer with the onslaught (my word) of winter. So, the point is, even though the first sentence does not explicitly talk about the weather, the first paragraph does. Only The Call of the Wild is allowed to do that.

I'm exaggerating a ton, but that first paragraph does sound like the beginning of an episode of The Nature of Things.

First thing said:

"Anna! Anna! Anna!"

According to Elmore Leonard, this writer has used up all his exclamation marks for the rest of his book.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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