by Sean Stewart
It's difficult to summarize the story here, and it definitely has it's odd points. Galveston certainly doesn't follow any of the tried and true fantasy recipes, that's for sure, though at times Stewart hints at such cliches, only to turn back at the last moment. His style is adequate, and he seems to have a reasonable ability to get the pages turning, but the story lacked something. To be honest, I don't think it works. There were a few times during the story where I thought things would pick up, but instead descended into something completely different. Normally that wouldn't be so bad, but this isn't an eschewing of cliche ideas in favor of something more interesting, it's just doing so for the sake of doing so. For instance, at one point, the scene was set for a courtroom drama, but Stewart doesn't go that route (and let's just say that I'm not too impressed with the legal foundation of this Galveston). In itself, that isn't a bad thing - who needs another trite courtroom drama? - but it's not like anything of substance took its place. The novel moves from one interesting idea to another, but it only stays long enough to hint at it, then careens off in some other direction.
It's not so much that Stewart writes poorly or that the actions of the characters are unrealistic (despite their unreal surroundings), it's that it's difficult to like the characters and I'm not quite sure what Stewart is getting at. There are plenty of themes to draw from and lessons to glean, but this is certainly an unenjoyable way to acquire such insights. It's said that writing a novel with flawed characters is difficult to do, but I'm not sure this novel is the best example of that either. It feels like Steward really wants us to dislike his characters. Take Josh Cane. Relatively intelligent and resourceful, but a bit arrogant and wistful. All in all he seems like a decent guy, but the townsfolk react to him in a much more extreme manner than is warranted. At one point, he has a falling out with his friend Ham, but I can't seem to figure out why. It turns out that Ham was only friends with Josh because Josh's father paid Ham's family to take care of his son - where does Ham get off judging Josh so harshly? And there's a lot more that is frustrating about their relationship (and others) than that, too.
I suppose you could make the case that this is simply a realistic portrayal of a wounded friendship (after all, emotional disagreements such as the one shared by the characters aren't guided by reason) and it's clear that the hypocrisy is intentional, but it doesn't particularly make for great reading. I don't know why, but I had expected something more fun and optimistic than cynical and pessimistic. I suppose it's not quite as bad if you're coming from that perspective. This one just didn't agree with me I guess.
Recommended:Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
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