Bray knows her characters. The medley of sixteen year old underachiever/loser guy to talking garden gnome cast she creates is a fun romp to read through. Which is good because this is a looooooooooooong book. Very long. 480 pages long.
I know. I know. I sound like a griping teenager. The target audience. I wonder if the story has enough to keep them reading. I had a hard time remaining engaged.
While I enjoyed the imagination, the characters, the dialogue, the constantly changing setting, it was, ultimately, the leap of faith I was unable to take. At about the end of the first third of the book, when Cameron has already been hospitalized and is degenerating quickly - he's suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jacob (mad cow) disease, which is incurable and deadly. He sees an angel. Not just any angel. A punker angel. Okay, I'm still with you. The weird angel has appeared before in the distance. This might work. A punker angel named Dulcie.
We, as readers, are ultimately asked to "sign" a contract to take the leap of faith in fiction. To believe in the parameters of the story. Cameron's reality. It seems to incredible to be real. Sure enough, we come to discover in a 100 Years of Solitude sort of way toward the very end (and there are hints throughout that this might indeed be the case) that Cameron's been hallucinating/dreaming the last two weeks of his life. In other words, everything, including Dulcie, is a figment of his imagination. Yet his imagined life is far more alive and real than the 16 years of his life he more or less drifted through.
It's a great ending. Gabriel Garcia Marquez genius type of ending. But will the reader get there? We aren't in Latin American mysticism but modern day Texas. Realistic setting makes the leap hard. Dulcie makes the leap even harder. Granted, we're not supposed to take the leap in the end, we realize. It was a fantastical leap to begin with. One Cameron dreamed up. But because we do not know that right away, and because the fantastical keeps getting further and further out there, it's really hard to stay engaged, leaving the reader wondering, huh? What's the point? And, um, is it coming soon?
I hate not liking a book. I hate finding stuff wrong with the writing. There is no pleasure in it for me, especially with a book so close to greatness. Ultimately, it feels as though this piece lacked a stronger editorial pen. The right external input could have turned unbelievable into fantastical genius marvelous. We authors need editors. We really really do. No matter what stage of writing we are at. And we should never forget that. Because when we do, we are doomed to repeat our own mistakes without correction over and over and over again.
Read Going Bovine for its characters. For its Garcia Marquez crafty twist on reality. But also to notice where the editorial pen would have helped. Could have tightened, condensed and lifted such promise to the next level of greatness.
I review books that surprise me, jar me, make me think. They are books I've bought, borrowed from the library, or been given as a gift. I do accept ARCs, but will only review a book if it moves me. It's about the writing. If I'm moved, I pass it on in a review.