Sunday, April 16, 2017

Descent (Tim Johnston)

OK, so before we get started let me specify that this is NOT the novel that the horror movie, The Descent, was based on. I don't know if that's what I was expecting when I bought this because I don't remember buying it, but I do know that I got it off of some recommendations list on Pinterest for "books you won't be able to put down."
That was a lie.
Maybe I was expecting a creature-feature style romp underground, although the setup certainly doesn't lend itself towards that ever happening. In fact, after having finished the book, I still feel like nothing has happened.
I'm not going to give you a synopsis of the book because I feel confident that you can click the picture and read the perfectly apt synopsis someone made for Amazon. Instead I'm going to tell you what I liked and disliked about the book.
The Book
I didn't like anything. The characters were one dimensional, which was only made worse by the Faulkner-esque jumping around of narrators. I didn't care about the poor, broken mother wandering through her own life thinking more about the twin she lost as a child than the child she lost like a month ago; I didn't care about the father who for some reason decided to become Clint Eastwood cowboying it up on some old guy's farm and developing tension with said old guy's younger son. (Said old guy's older son was the sheriff in charge of the search for the missing daughter. I'm still not totally sure why he felt the need to give his father this crazy man to take care of, especially after having just fallen off of a roof. But that's none of my business.) I REALLY didn't care about the brother, who is generally referred to as "the Boy" throughout the book, who begins wandering aimlessly through the central western US for no apparent reason. None. He is not looking for his sister. He is not trying to "find himself", he is just driving from town to town being useless to the story. And he takes up a LOT of the story.
Finally, there is the daughter, Caitlin, who I almost sort of cared about, but wasn't given enough time with to REALLY care about, and that's a shame. She also goes by "the Girl" most of the time, which made sense to me. Often times that absence of a name is meant to relay the attempt of a held person to "escape" their situation, or protect their "real" self from their captor. Cool, she doesn't go by a name, I'm fine with that. I'm more than  a little irritated at her brother for doing the same thing for no Goddamn reason.
I wish I'd had more time with Caitlin because the small amount of depth she was given implied that there was a lot to be learned. But only a Dixie cup's worth was given to me. So ultimately, I didn't REALLY care whether she escaped or was found or whatever.
The Writing
I hated the writing style. It was weirdly disjointed, in a way that is hard to explain. But here, let me try.
This guy rambles on about the scenery like he thinks he's Cormic fucking McCarthy. I GET IT- the mountains loom in the background. If half of that had been funneled into character development maybe I would have given a fuck about at least one person in the book. (NOTE - now that I'm thinking about it, I really did like the Old Man that the father went to work for. He was OK. But again, more one dimensional than I would like.)
The dialogue... Omg The dialogue. It is SO WEIRD. This guy doesn't use quotation marks the way he's supposed to and it drives me BATSHIT. Why, you might ask? Because he's always fucking rambling about the scenery like I'm suddenly reading 18th century French literature again and I'm trying to skim the bullshit and then realize I missed a conversation because he didn't use the punctuation he was supposed to use. Even worse is that SOMETIMES he DOES use quotation marks like he's supposed to, so it's sort of anyone's guess at any given point whether he's going to fuck with you or not. This, to me, is like waving someone through a four way stop when it is clearly your turn- follow the rules you Goddamned hippie.
This was painful to read. At first I kept going because, hey, a lot of great books have been slow to start. But nothing. Ever. Happens. Like at all. Just page after page of me waiting "for it to get interesting" yet it never does. If it had been a physical book there is an excellent possibility that I would have set it down at a doctor's office or somewhere and completely forgotten to pick it back up. I was more interested during the last 20% of the book in the leftovers I wanted to eat from the fridge than the story itself. To be clear, that includes the penultimate battle for the girl's survival as well as the outcome of said battle. Eating a cold egg roll was more satisfying than  finishing this book.

So, let's recap: I would never recommend anyone read this book. It wasn't that I don't like the genre because I've read plenty of missing kid books, and actually I find the idea of setting it in the Rockies really cool. But this was so poorly executed.
The Book
🥀 (a dead enchanted rose is basically a negative score.)
The Writing
Sorry, Tim, this was just a no go on all fronts.