November 30th, 2008


So, I figured I'd jump ahead, again ...

As I've noted from time to time ... I don't read much fiction. I used to read vast lots of fiction, and my library certainly reflects that, but somehow, back when I was running Eschaton Books (when I had no time for "pleasure reading", only what came in over the transom in the form of manuscripts) I soured on the concept. As those of you who have read my book review blog are aware (as a note to this effect is up top there), I had gone, by way of being a publisher, from being an avid reader to barely an occasional reader. When I got back into reading, however, I had a HUGE backlog of non-fiction books, and an attitude that reading fiction was just this side of watching sitcoms as far as quality time usage!

This is just to set in context what a major happening my having read Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul over the past couple of days is within my recent "book consumption" history. The last time I read any fiction was five years and over 260 books ago. I seem to recall having read something somewhere that was highly enthusiastic about something in this book, and so ordered it almost 2 years back, to go into the "might read this sometime" backwaters of my "to be read" boxes.

This book is in Adams' series of Dirk Gently "Holistic Detective" books. I have not read the first in the series, and don't have a clue how many there are, but didn't feel "lost" when picking up the story. The general premise here is that the old Norse Gods were still around, but pretty much ignored, living out the immortality that humans demanded they have. Of the Norse pantheon, however, only Thor and Odin are "fleshed out" as it were ... each taking certain "traditional" aspects into their roles in the modern world.

This is really one of those books where saying enough to give a sense of what's happening in the book is saying too much in terms of "spoilers". Really ... you don't want to know what's happening until it does in here as otherwise the sole saving graces the book has would fall flat!

Adams weaves a very interesting set-up over the first 2/3rds of the book, with all sorts of subplots, characters, events, etc., that all starts meshing when he seems to have lost interest. There are characters who are just gone, mentioned perhaps in context of something done earlier (most of the book takes place in a single day), but never brought back in, as well as recurrent elements that never get satisfactorily explained or are given a half-sentence of "oh, that's what that was".

Frankly, this could have been an excellent book were it about 3 times as long, but it's like Adams picked one sub-plot, decided to play it out on that, and "wrap" with the main plot with gaping holes. There were at least five characters which could have been better "concluded" within the narrative, and sub-plots that just disappeared. Again, I'm unfamiliar with the "series", so these elements might be "being shelved" to come back in subsequent books, but the take-away is a lot of "you're kidding, right?".

But, hey ... maybe it's me vs. fiction ... maybe your average fiction reader wouldn't care ... I don't know. But this certainly doesn't have me itching to run over to Borders to stock up on new fiction. Don't get me wrong, I really LIKED a lot of this ... Adams' has some brilliant "bits" in there, but as a work it is deeply flawed. Again, used as I am to reading history, science, archaeology, religion, politics, occult, and other non-fiction books, this was a shockingly fast read. I have "shelving issues" as it is with reading in excess of 72 non-fiction books a year, and were I to fall back into a fiction habit I don't know where the books would go, as I'd be going from reading at least six books a month, to blowing through something like six books a week.

Well, there it is ... I'd been encouraged by some to "try some fiction" again, and I'm feeling somewhat uncomfortable with it.

Anyway, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is available as a mass-market paperback (and thereby likely to be at your local brick&mortar book vendor), but can also be had in hardback (mine's the bookclub edition) for as little as 1¢ (plus $3.99 shipping, of course) from the Amazon new/used guys.

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