Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Guardians by Andrew Pyper

Memory Diary
Entry No. 1

We watched them come in.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of this blog we thought I would review another book by the author who started it all off. That time round he got a resounding epic fail for how he opened his 'award-winning' novel.

The opening line from this effort reads like an exercise in pronounology. It could be about anything, absolutely anything in the universe. We don't learn who 'we' are, but we do learn that 'they' are police officers going into a house. The first is one fat officer (stereotype intended?), who shows up. Whatever is in the house is disturbing, as fat cop comes out of the house transformed into sweaty fat cop. Fat cop calls it in and soon more police show up, an ambulance and fire trucks, before the body bags start coming out. This prologue ends:

A gulp of french fry, onion ring and chicken finger that, to this day, is the taste of death.

We remember all this, though still not everything.

And some of the things we remember may not have happened at all.

Huh? But that's it. We never learn what happened, or what this is about. Just bodies that the narrators may have remembered or may not have remembered because it may or may not have happened. It sounds like a writer just wrote a first draft of the opening of a story, and is still not sure what is going to happen next. However, the subtitle to this masked prologue explains more than the text. Whoever this 'we' pronoun is, they have memory problems, so one may reasonably infer. So this would have to be the opening hook, which serves to entice readers into the story, but may also warn them that there might be some ambiguity for a bit.

Plus, how does a gulp of food taste like death, as opposed to the food itself? Remove the propositional phrase of...etc., and we have this: A gulp is the taste of death.

Chapter 1:

The call comes in the middle of the night, as the worst sort do.

So this line works two opening cliches: the waking up or bed setting cliche and the phone call cliche.

First thing said:

"I don't even know what time it is."

This line sounds less awkward if that sentence and the next hadn't been separated with punctuation: "But it's late, isn't it?"

Then the voice is described, which is notable enough to add here:

A familiar voice, faintly slurred, helium-pitched between laughter and sobs.

This is another example of the descriptive style of this writer: It seems everything can be described as a series of contradictions co-existing within the being of each thing out there. Take the opening of the Demonologist:

Last night I had the dream again. Except it was not a dream.

Later when describing Ben, a guy who hung himself which is what the phone call is about, the narrator, Trev, talks about how Ben and he might ...have been separated by an ocean, or an even greater barrier, as impossible to cross as the chasm between planets, as death.

Then the next paragraph begins:

Despite this, we were still close. There was a love between us too. A sexless, stillborn love, yet just as fierce as the other kinds.

Yeah, right. Why can I not believe that or imagine that after the hyperbolic chasm description that is like as big as life and death? Hyperbolic chasm description might just be referring to distance, but I can't help but think it has more to do with personalities or the natures of the characters. There are certainly plenty of hints to suggest this is the case. We learn that what connects these two characters is a secret - a secret unknown even to Ben and Trev!

There are many contrary concepts in this writing that makes one wonder why one is even bothering to read. I suppose one could just ignore them if one reads fast enough or multitasks, you know, by thinking about what to have for dinner while reading.

Still the prologue and what we can infer from it and the fact that dialogue is used and a scene unfolds early on in chapter 1 gets this the 'meh' pass.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Rudy Globird

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