July 20, 2008
Introductions and Alex Garland
Hi, everybody. It's been a while since I was announced, but here I finally am. As Livi told you, I am Deimyts (pronounced however you like) and I attend nineteen different colleges. I commute to a different one every day. My taste in books tends more towards fantasy than anything else, although classic literature is beginning to give it a run for its money, and I will usually read anything you put in front of me, from Frankenstein to the back of a box of Frosted Flakes. I don't know how frequently I'll be able to post reviews here; I tend to get distracted very easily, and will often stop in the middle of one book to start another, which sometimes leads to problems finishing any of them unless I sit down and read one straight through in a couple of sittings. I am also constantly buying books and then forgetting about them for months, which brings me somewhat closer to the point of this post.
Half Price Books sent me a weeks worth of coupons recently, an unashamed marketing ploy that has so far worked like a charm. Yesterday after school (yes, I'm in summer school, that's part of the reason I've remained a non-entity here for so long) I stopped by their store to use one of them, and while I was browsing I came across this tiny little book called The Coma, apparently written by the same man responsible for 28 Days Later, a movie I have never seen and so couldn't use to judge him. It was short and it looked kind of interesting, so I started reading and ended up finishing it in the store less than an hour later. It seemed like a good book for a first reveiw, as it was neither great nor terrible, and the title even works as a sort of metaphor for the hiatus between Livi's announcement and my actual debut.
The story is about a man named Carl, who tries to prevent a robbery and gets beaten into a coma for his efforts. When he wakes up, the inconsistent behavior of the world around him and the fact that he can't remember intimate details about his own life force him to conclude that the waking up itself was a dream, and he is still unconscious. If he wants to wake up for real, he's going to have to find a way to force himself out of his coma from within the dream.
Now, I liked the idea and its potential for thought-provoking goodness, and it was not poorly written, but if it had been much longer, I'd have put it back on the shelf and never thought of it again. There was something missing, a lack of emotion on the part of Carl that left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. As he searched his dream world for something that could jar him back to life, Carl remained for the most part entirely calm and rational, leaving the reader feeling detached and only sort of interested in his efforts, instead of cheering him on in a rabid frenzy. In a way, the detachment fit with the dreamlike atmosphere, but if I had to choose one or the other, I'd prefer more emotional impact over ambiance. I already know he's in a coma; show me why I care.
There were some parts that stood out: when Carl goes into a bookstore, for example, and realizes he can't remember enough of the content to make any of the books readable. As a bonus, he managed to get a teensy bit angry with the clerk, which made the whole episode better. The climax was not too shabby either, but once again a lack of emotion kept it from being as good as it could have been.
I think if it were trimmed down a bit, and if Carl were more panicky and unstable (I mean, even when he was losing his mind he sounded very calm about it!), then it could be a pretty neat short story, the kind that makes you sit back after you're done and just ponder what you've read for a while. Instead, all it called forth from me was a mental shrug. If you're a fast reader with nothing else to do, I'd say it's worth checking out of the library or doing as I did and reading it in-store, but I wouldn't spend money on it.
Also, tomatoes are awesome.