Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: The Absent One

Today, I am reviewing Jussi Adler-Olsen's novel The Absent One.

Let me begin by saying that this novel is part of a series (it's a "Department Q" novel), none of which I have read, and that this novel is a translation (Jussi is Danish).

This novel is a sensationalistic one. Drawing on themes of sado-masochism, abuse, and the privilege of the rich, it is difficult to read it and not feel like the author is trying to shock you. Having said that, there is enough suspense, and the plot is interesting enough to keep the reader wanting to know what happens next and keep turning pages.

The title seems to come from a character in the novel who is a mistress of disappearance - she's been living on the streets for years despite having come from a wealthy family, she changes her physical appearance frequently enough to be thoroughly camouflaged, and a few people want her dead - which is kind of fair, because there are quite a few people she wants to torment, herself.

This novel is not black and white - there are innocent victims, but they tend to be in the past. The police in this novel - the Department Q to which the series title refers - get entangled in the mess of abuse and crime while trying to solve a crime that is 20 years old. Yet the detective Carl Morck definitely has some issues, his jr. detective Assad seems to have something mysterious and probably illegal in his past, and even a few of the criminals in this novel seem to have a history that causes the reader to somewhat condone their behavior.

Occasionally, the translation didn't quite make sense to me - not on the individual sentence level, but rather, on the level of character. In particular, the secretary, Rose, whom Carl thinks is a giant, incompetent bitch, doesn't really seem that incompetent or bitchy to me while reading. Overall, however, the novel was a fairly interesting read, though, as I've stated before, seemed intentionally written for shock value.

This review is rather brief, because so much of the plot involves learning more about the characters and piecing together the plot, that I don't want to give too much away & make it not fun to read. However, if you have any thoughts on this novel, feel free to share them in the comments below.

*This novel was received as an ARC, and is slated to be published August 21, 2012.


So, I read this novel awhile ago, but have been having trouble finding the energy to review it. I wish I could blame this lethargy on the heat wave, but it is, in fact, simply me giving in to laziness. So, here it is - the long-awaited book review (that you didn't know was coming) of A Once Crowded Sky:

As you can see, it has an intriguing cover. And as the flashy red cape & the fact that the gentleman wearing it is walking on clouds suggests, this novel deals with superheroes.

King's novel delves into the superhero psyche.

What creates a superhero? Like many of our favorite comic book protagonists, the heroes in this novel all have a tragic backstory. After all, it would make sense that an enormous amount of pain and suffering would have to take place before a person was willing to risk his or her own life and limb on a daily/weekly basis for people that he or she did not previously know.

Yet while the reader learns most of the heroes' backstories, this novel actually takes place after the superheroes have sacrificed their powers in order to save the world -- effectively turning themselves into normal humans. This turn of events creates some issues - what do you do when you can no longer save the world on a regular basis?

Yes, there is a therapist/psychologist who specializes in seeing superheroes.

And what do you do when some unknown villain begins attacking everyone again? Specifically, targeting superheroes?

Only one man still retains his superhuman strength - Pen Ultimate, the former sidekick of the ultimate superhero, um, Ultimate. Pen had walked away from being a superhero and/or sidekick years before the superheroes were asked to sacrifice their powers, and he was not present when the sacrifice took place. As a result, he is the one person who is still able to move faster than other people, anyway, if not a speeding bullet. He is the person with the strength of numerous others, if not of 10.

He gets dragged into the world of fighting again, because there's no one else who can. Yet he doesn't like being a superhero, and never has. He walked away years ago because he didn't want to risk life and limb - he wanted to live a quiet life with his wife. Now, he struggles with his promise to his wife that he would be safe, and the imperative to help others that has been drilled into him when younger, and now seems more important than others.

Overall, I found this book interesting. The writing is interspersed with comic book pages of the superheroes & supervillains about whom you are reading. The writing itself is written in a serialized fashion, drawing attention to the comic book world about which author Tom King is writing.

I definitely recommend this novel to people who grew up or are still enjoying reading comic books. It will provide a different perspective, though, and the novel is rather dark. Also recommended for readers who enjoy experimental novels. Also, because this review is rather late, the novel is available for sale now!

Have you read this novel? What was your opinion?