So I finished Under The Dome on Saturday. It. Was. Fantastic.
But…before I write up a proper review (well, my half arsed musings) about Under The Dome (saying it was fantastic doesn’t quite cover everything…sorry), I’m going to discuss the two books I read prior to picking up King’s masterpiece. The first book has waited for my all important review (I believe every author is after my seal of approval, uh huh) for a few months now, and it’s about time I discussed it. As for the second, well, that one just depressed me. But in a good way.
Intrigued? Of course you are!
Let’s start with…
Law Of Nines
I’ve said the name a few times in the past, but except for telling you how much I liked it, you know you very little about Terry Goodkind’s Law Of Nines. I read it way back in June/July, so the main reason for inserting a passing mention in the odd blog post was to show I hadn’t forgotten about it, and that eventually I would get round to reviewing it.
And uh, here we are! I must admit, I am somewhat wary about writing this review, as I think that my elusiveness to discuss the book up to this point may have involuntary created a massive hype around the Law Of Nines. This hype will then lead to great disappointment once you realize you could have read an equally useful review somewhere else. One that is less digressable (new word, don’t question it) and, uh, better planned. But hey, you probably already knew that, right?
But despite the fact it would be easier for me to just link you to a different site and say “yep, I agree with them”, I’m going to plow on with this review regardless. Why? Because this book deserves it!
…And because I’ve got nothing else to talk about, so I may as well.
SO, Law Of Nines; what’s it about? Well, I think the official blurb sums it up best;
Turning twenty-seven may be terrifying for some, but for Alex, a struggling artist living in the Midwest, it is cataclysmic. Inheriting a huge expanse of land should make him a rich and happy man; but something about this birthday, his name, and the beautiful woman whose life he just saved, has suddenly made him – and everyone he loves – into a target for extreme and uncompromising violence.
Oooh…you can see why I picked it up, can’t you? Not only is the protagonist called Alex (great name, great name…), it just sounds good. Violence, a beautiful woman…yep, Law Of Nine’s grabbed my attention straight away.
And it only gets better once you start reading. I’m not going to divulge any details of the plot here (except for two references below) because I don’t want to spoil a single part of it for you. It really is a fantastic book, and I must recommend it to you. Even if you aren’t interested in the fantasy or thriller genres (you monsters!), it is worth reading.
What’s so good about it?
Well, by far and away the best thing in Law Of Nine’s arsenal is the story. It has one the most interesting premises that I’ve read in a long time. I’d be raving about it a lot more if I hadn’t just read Under The Dome, but, yeah, it really is superb.
My favourite aspect is probably is the insane asylum angle (to do with his mother…I’ll leave it at that), which is perfectly written, and one of the best sections I’ve read in a book before (it really connects you to the characters). It really carried the story on, and created another level of depth to the novel.
But that’s just one highlight among many. The overlying theme of this epic battle going on between good and evil that our protagonist is intrinsically linked to, plus several other themes I won’t mention, really draw out your imagination. Or at least it did with me. It opened my mind, I suppose you could say. And that’s always a good thing.
Oh, and of course, there is a great deal of excitement and peril in Law Of Nines. The fantasy side creates the story, but the thriller side keeps you entertained. To fall once more into one of those damned clichés I insulted the other day, Law Of Nines hooked me from the start, and I did indeed struggle to put it down. Not Under The Dome type struggle, but it was difficult. I think I read two hundred pages in one day, so yeah…I was involved.
Anyway, The Law Of Nine’s was a fantastic book. The writing was…good, and as I said above, the idea of it was bloody fantastic. The fact that there could be a sequel to it (apparently it is linked to Goodkind’s other novels too) is even more exciting, as it might take place in the second world (you know, the one that I didn’t mention before, and will not mention again because, you know, spoilers). There were a lot of positives to take from it.
The fact that I’d never heard of it worked in its favour too. I was going completely off the blurb; I wasn’t familiar with the author, and I had no idea what genre or style it would be in…it was a complete shot in the dark. But it blew me away.
But, despite all this praise, Law Of Nines did have a few flaws that I can’t fail to acknowledge. The ending, for example, is a little anti-climactic, which was a bit disappointing (given the scale, I think it was always going to be hard to complete…but still, could have been cleverer.
And though the fantasy/thriller blend worked in many ways; it wouldn’t have been as interesting plot-wise had it been all thriller (the fantasy added the depth, if you will), and it might have lost some of the excitement without that element of action…you did feel, at times, like something was lacking. The problem stems from how these two genres differ. Thriller novels work off tension, and tight, purposeful writing. Fantasy stories, especially ones that have the level of scope that Law Of Nines has (in terms of size, it wouldn’t be too inaccurate to compare it to something like Lord Of The Rings), require a lot more indulgence than a tale set over a few days. This leads to an imbalance, where neither aspect is fully satisfied. It needs to be sharper, but at the same time, more expansive to work.
But, even with that issue, I really enjoyed it. And it was a very good effort. Not perfect, but certainly an impressive book. Were I to give it a score, I’d probably plump for 8/10. My more cynical side would argue it’s just a 7, but I tell my cynical side that was a bloody engaging read and deserves the extra point. My cynical side promptly shuts up.
So, yes, an 8/10. If I scored it. But I don’t, because I leave that kind of simple analysis to my film reviews.
Besides, even if Law Of Nines was just a 7 (hypothetically, of course), the sequel might do even better, and get a (hypothetical) 8, or maybe 9. Who knows? The potential is definitely there. I’ll make sure to keep my eye out for it.
The Funhouse, by Dean Koontz is like a B movie with Samuel L Jackson. The plot is mundane, possibly stupid (or probably non-existent), but it compensates entirely for this in other ways. In the movie’s case, it’ll be through the artistic stylings of Mr Jackson. In The Funhouse’s case, it is through Koontz’s writing, which is depressingly good (I’ll explain that term shortly)*.
But before you go criticizing me for comparing the plot of a Koontz novel to a B movie, I would like to point out that The Funhouse is actually the novelization of a B movie horror film of the same name (The Funhouse, in case you’d already forgotten), and isn’t originally a Koontz idea. Therefore I’m entirely right to question the plot, because, like most horror films, it doesn’t really have one. Nor does it have Samuel L Jackson included in the cast, so frankly, I’m not sure why they even bothered making it into a novel.
But I digress. Back to the story, and The Funhouse (the movie version) can be boiled down to a few sentences (again, like most horror films). Essentially, there are some teenagers who go to a carnival. Bad things happen, there is a monster, people die, scream scream scream, the end. Koontz’s novel is more or less the exact same premise as the movie, because, well, it wouldn’t impress the guys who hired him to transform the film into book form if he changed everything about it. He does, however, add a better back story to it. It’s deeper. His version has a madman hellbent on revenge, a weird mutant child thing, an alcoholic mother…but otherwise, same thing.
Now, I realize I am being very critical here. After all, I do like horror films, and I like horror novels even more. I simply wanted to get across the point that my enjoyment of this book (contrary to everything I’ve said so far, I did actually enjoy this book) didn’t come from the story, it came from the writing. Because Koontz, to steal a phrase from my dad, was on fire (not literally, but certainly metaphorically) when he wrote The Funhouse. I can’t fault his writing whatsoever.
Now, I’ve read a few of his other novels, and though impressive, none of them have affected me in this way. Maybe it was different with The Funhouse because he didn’t have to worry so much about the plot, allowing himself more time for the narrative. I don’t know. Regardless of the reason, it was superb. The descriptions were amazing, there was lots of suspense, vivid imagery…everything was impressive. I wish I hadn’t boxed it away because I would have loved to share an extract with you. There was one particular part in the first few chapters where I just had to stop and say “wow” to myself. That doesn’t happen often, but here I was, silently (or in this case, audibly) applauding Koontz for what he’d done.
This is where the whole “depressingly good” thing comes in. Some of it was so fantastic it saddened me, because it made me feel like I couldn’t ever manage to do anything like that in my writing. I suppose on a different day it would be inspirational; I could use that to improve my own abilities, and to encourage me to better myself. Either way, I think it says a lot about what Koontz had done.
Or about me.
I’m going to say it’s a compliment to him, and leave it at that. Well done Mr Koontz.
*I probably overplayed that metaphor didn’t I? What can I say, I had Samuel L Jackson on the brain and I wanted to involve him somehow.