Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns

Nurse Spandex was late, and as she broke into a run her rubber-soled clogs went squeak-squeak on the floor of the hallway leading to labor and delivery.

Character, setting, conflict and foreshadowing all in one sentence. Somebody involved with this book is doing something right. Could it be that a published author actually knows what he is doing and doesn't actually need to depend on PR and marketing to succeed?

Snide remarks aside, the rest of the paragraph and first page moves quickly as a scene unfolds, with expertly inserted back story that is sparse and relevant to the plot, like why Nurse Spandex is late and what could happen if the head nurse a.k.a. antagonist in this situation should find out. Just to fill you in, Nurse Spandex was doing the chicken bone wish pose with a guy in a hospital room where a poor colored woman had died that afternoon. So not only do we have some conflict but some weirdness which establishes tone and mood that manages to reveal character.

It's rare for a writer today to begin a simple story just by focusing on character and conflict and yet manage to establish other things like setting, mood, tone etc., that keeps critics and professors happy.

By page 2 the forward narrative starts to settle into a little more back story than I like so early on, but it's still entertaining and reveals character, so I can manage to endure it.

Verdict: Pass

Rudy Globird

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