Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Mystery Book I Didn't Much Like

So...that ARC I bragged about on Twitter? Took me forever to read. It's not even an "Advanced" copy anymore, since it's been available for purchase since February 23. Here's the cover, and a link to purchase the book from Barnes & Noble:

Why did this book take me a long time to read? It didn't hold my interest.

It's historical fiction, using as its' protagonist detective the actual "renegade monk and excommunicate Giordano Bruno." It takes place at Oxford University. Giordano Bruno goes there with his pal, poet Sir Philip Sidney (whose poetry I rather adore, really...if you haven't heard of Sidney, you should read some of his work), to engage in argument with the Rector (the dude in charge) about whether or not the universe is heliocentric. On this trip, the university "fellows" (basically, guys who have been around for awhile and have some power) begin dying. Bruno, apparently some great philanthropist, looks into the murders, and discovers Oxfordian secrets.

Heresy fell into a problem that I have with a lot of historical fiction - in trying to sound "authentic" and "old" it came across as "fake" and "boring." The dialogue, and the tone of narration throughout the book was very off-putting. I realize that it's hard to write historical fiction that sounds authentic - but if you're going to try to make it sound authentic, then you need to read a lot of primary sources from that time period, and have someone you trust, also familiar with primary sources, read it over, in order to appease fickle readers such as myself.

But really? This is FICTION. If I wanted to read "authentic" sixteenth century writing, I would literally read authentic sixteenth century writing. I personally felt that a more modern tone of voice would have made this book much more enjoyable.

Worse than the off-putting tone, however, was the characterization. I did not care about these characters. Any of them. I didn't care about the protagonist Giordano Bruno.

Do you ever watch horror movies, and want to yell at the person who is entering someone else's house? It's like: "Yeah, I know you're curious, but that's RUDE. Don't go in there unless you're invited, asshole!"

That's how I felt reading this book. I was like: "Why are you investigating these murders?" I really got the impression that Mr. Bruno was a nosy jerk who thought he had the right to know everything about everything because he wanted to. Um, no.

I did not care about the person who ended up being a murderer.

I did not care about the people who were murdered. I mean, murder is wrong, but I just didn't feel like I knew these people.

I certainly did NOT care about Bruno's love interest. She struck me as an annoying slut. I couldn't comprehend why he cared about her so much. Oh, wait. Yes I could. B/c she has tits. Congratulations, Bruno. Your taste in women rivals that of Hugh Hefner.

Perhaps worse than the poor characterization and off-putting tone of narration, however, was the plot. Mostly b/c there wasn't one.

Okay, okay, that's too harsh. There was a plot. It was just strung out so much that in the lengthy course of time it took me to read the book, I wasn't really following it that well. It kind of felt all over the place.

The book has all of this talk about how persecution and torture about beliefs that aren't going to harm anybody is WRONG (thus the title: Heresy). Frankly, when the book was wrapped up, I didn't much care. I was just glad not to be tortured any longer.

I'm sorry, S.J. Parris. I feel like you had some interesting ideas, and really good intentions. I just don't feel like they were carried out very well.


Possum said...

Funny enough, when I went to check the book out on Barnes & Noble (weird enough just BEING on that site)the impression I got from the reviews on there that it is THE BEST THING EVER. While your review tells something completely different.

I can't even really find it quickly on Google for indigo so I don't know if it's just the way Barnes & Nobles sets up its website.

Anyway, on to the comment of the review:

I don't even know if I'd even read Heresy. As much as I really enjoy historical fiction (cue eye roll) the way you explain things is just kind of like .. ah.

However, it's cool you got this as an ARC! I mean... It's available now, but still: cool! I assume it's from the library thing again?

Haha.. I like how you said if you wanted to read a historical account, you'd just READ something historical. Quite amusing! I like my characters to be likeable. It seems like this is too tall of an order for Heresy. Too bad, too bad. Likeable characters make the novel.

Shelly Quade said...

Hi, Possum. I agree. I like to like my characters.