Tag: The Stand

Haruki Murakami – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | Review

Title: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Author: Haruki Murakami

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 628

Rating: 4.5/5

I picked up this book as a buddy read with my friend Charlie, who’s also an excellent author in his own right. Buddy reads are almost always more fun than regular reads, but I think I would have still enjoyed this one regardless. That said, it did have at least one other impact because we read it three chapters a day instead of all in one go, and I think that helped me to take it a little more slowly and to savour it.

And there was plenty to savour here. Possibly one of my favourites was also the most brutal scene, in which someone got skinned alive with all the efficiency of someone peeling a peach. Murakami is a truly talented writer no matter what he’s writing about, which in this case meant that the whole scene was horrifically realistic, right down to the way that the man screamed.

I also like the sort of slight hallucinatory quality that the book has. It’s almost like a series of interrelated vignettes as opposed to a traditional novel, but it works really well and gives you something different as a reader that you might not have been expecting. I’ve read Murakami a bunch of times before of course, but he takes things in a slightly different direction here.

There’s almost something timeless about the storytelling here, and you have to give Murakami credit for that. Credit is also very much due to Jay Rubin too, who’s the translator here. I was stoked to see that when I picked it up because Rubin is my favourite Murakami translator. I was excited to see that right on the credits page, and the book just kept on getting better from there.

Another memorable series of scenes are those that took place at the bottom of wells. There was something deeply disturbing about those scenes, and you could really sense the claustrophobia. To be honest, it’s making me feel a little bit weird just thinking back to them.

What’s interesting about Murakami is that he has this knack of writing stories that are slow paced and meandering but which still definitely go somewhere. They’re the kind of books where it feels like anything can happen, and that’s what makes Murakami so readable. This here feels as though it might be his equivalent of The Stand, and there’s certain that kind of epic quality to it.

But perhaps it’s more like Cloud Atlas or something like that, because it all takes place in our own world and there are none of the supernatural hijinks that come along with Stephen King, who I guess is the closest I can think of to Murakami when it comes to making fictional characters seem realistic while writing about the darker sides of humanity.

To be honest, when I got started on this book, all I knew about it was that it was a Murakami novel and that Charlie wanted to read it. I think I had a slight subconscious knowledge of it being quite a popular one amongst Murakami fans, but that’s about it. I’m glad that the buddy read gave me the impetus to pick it up and to order a copy in rather than just waiting until I spotted it in a charity shop.

So would I recommend this one? Oh hell yeah, I was very impressed by it. It might be kind of long if you’re new to Murakami, and I think most people probably start out with Norwegian Wood, but I think this book is a cracker no matter who wrote it. The fact that it’s a translation just makes it cooler.

Learn more about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

 


Justin Cronin – The Passage | Review

Title: The Passage

Author: Justin Cronin

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 998

Rating: 2/5

 

Justin Cronin - The Passage

Justin Cronin – The Passage

 

Okay, strap yourself in. This review is going to be interesting because of my system in which I match the word count of my reviews to the number of pages that a book has. The Passage has lots of pages and so I need to write a long review, but I really don’t have much to say. It was just a disappointment.

There’s been a lot of hype around this book, particularly on BookTube in the last couple of years or so, and I really don’t understand it. True, I went into it blind and didn’t know too much of it, but I gather that it’s been compared to The Stand by Stephen King, which is one of my favourite books. Yeah, no. Comparing this to The Stand is like comparing one of my doodles to a Picasso painting.

True, it does have the whole post-apocalyptic survival thing going for it, but then it also takes the whole “chosen onetrope and just amps it up until it’s downright ridiculous. It also has vampires, or at least something a little like them, but that just made it feel like Cronin was stealing ‘Salem’s Lot from Stephen King as well. And while the vampires here aren’t sparkly, I’d rather read all of the Twilight books than have to re-read The Passage. Although I’d prefer to do neither if it’s all the same to you.

 

Stephen King - The Stand

Stephen King – The Stand

 

One of the big problems with The Passage was that the characters were uninteresting. It’s not even that they were unlikeable, they just weren’t much of anything. It was the literary equivalent of eating lettuce, but when there’s almost 1,000 pages you want something a little more substantial. And I’m saying that as a vegan.

I buddy read this with a couple of friends from BookTube, and none of us enjoyed it. I found it such a slog that when I got about halfway through, I switched it out with The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins to make it my bedtime book. I figured it might help me to fall asleep, and I was right. It ended up taking me the best part of a month to finish.

One of the main problems that the three of us had with it is that it could’ve been an okay book if it had been better edited. I can’t imagine why they let it go out at this length unless they were planning on using the length itself as a marketing ploy, and I’m pretty sure from reading this that you could get the entire trilogy into a shorter book than The Passage and it would work well.

 

Stephen King - 'Salem's Lot

Stephen King – ‘Salem’s Lot

 

There are just prolonged periods of nothingness and sub-stories that just don’t add anything to it. Part of this might be because I didn’t give a damn about the characters, but I’m pretty sure at least some of it is down to the way that it’s written. It reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert in a way, because there’s a long slog in the middle of Dune where nothing much happens. Unfortunately for Cronin, Dune was still a good book, whereas The Passage fell flat.

I also had a problem with the actual writing. There are times when I’ll read a book that I didn’t much like but where I’ll still be able to respect the author’s writing style. For example, I didn’t like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but I did at least like some of the individual sentences. Here, though, it just feels a little sloppy, another fault that could have been fixed with tighter editing.

So it all comes down to the fact that it’s just longer than it needs to be and not particularly well written. A book like this shouldn’t bore the reader, especially given the concept. Cronin somehow took a great idea and made it as exciting as watching a children’s television show. And like the salad that it reminds me of, it’s just bland, tasteless, and I think the leaves might have gone off a little bit, too.

 

Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin

 

Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who loved the book. Thinking about it, though, I’ve never come across any. I’ve seen lots of people who were excited about reading it, but I don’t think I ever saw any reviews from them. Perhaps they had a similar experience to me. For our part, all three of us in the buddy read said that we would have DNFd it if we weren’t reading it with other people, and that doesn’t bode well.

And can we talk about how weird it is that the book was being sold brand new for £2.99 because Waterstones apparently loved it? It also came with reading group discussion prompts, which I’ve always hated. It seems a little pretentious to me, and our little reading group only had one question when we finished it. “Why did we read this?”

So if you’re thinking about reading this book, I’d probably suggest skipping it and reading something else. It comes with a little list of suggested further reading at the end of it, which understandably includes The Stand. The Passage is a pretender, a wannabe, and while I applaud Cronin on taking a shot at it, I think he missed the target. I can’t imagine ever wanting to read the rest of this trilogy, although I’m not saying I’d never read Cronin again. I just wouldn’t waste my time on something with 1,000 pages that should have been shortened to 350.

The biggest crime for me is the waste of the idea. It has every right to be a great book, it just isn’t. It’s a shame that someone else didn’t get their hands on it – or even just a really good editor. Congratulations if you read this far. We finished it.

 

Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin

 

Click here to buy The Passage.