One of Us is Lying 1/5
Over all this is an OK mystery. The setup is that five high school students have been given detentions after school because their teacher found cellphones in their bags. When they’re in detention, one of the group, a hated webmaster and content creator of a gossip website that all the other members of the detention have been involved with before and they all have their little secrets to be protected. Well he dies when he drinks a peanut oil laced cup of water, goes into anaphylactic shock and dies. And now any one of the remaining kids could be implicated in his death.
Except no. The mystery is so obvious from the first moment because of a heavy handed clue that makes what would have been mysterious not at all mysterious. And so what should have been a character study is just a boring fake mystery. And even the title “One of us is lying” is actually quoted in the novel as “What if one of us is lying” which they aren’t really, so it doesn’t matter.
And none of this matters at all because the social politics of a dreadfully serious issue is handled so carelessly and so offensively that it doesn’t matter one bit what the mystery is. Somehow the book wants to be edgy by treating a serious subject cynically, but instead it’s dumb as crap and conservative by refusing to have contain empathy. So eff this noise I guess.
The Fifth Season 2/5
I think I might be the only person who didn’t actually really like this novel. And I mean, I was really bored and really annoyed with it throughout. First, I don’t like that it borrowed heavily from other fantasy series, but taking the parts that it borrowed out of context doesn’t make any sense. I get that you want to say “Rust that” like a funny fake curse word, but when it’s used in “Mistborn” a book whose magic is based in metal, it makes sense. Here, it’s like: oh right, you’re borrowing from Brandon Sanderson. It’s not stealing, it’s clearly an homage or a nod, but it doesn’t make any sense in this one.
Ok, also, this book is not served and does not justify its use of second-person for one-third of the narration. It just doesn’t. There’s no payoff, and there’s nothing gained by a pretty divisive narrative tactic that feels cheap when it’s less than perfect. I am not a fan of it anyway, but even when a short story collection uses it more than once I already want to toss the book.
And so what am I left with? A book where one-third feels sloppy. A book that takes forever for anything to happen, and a book where it turns out that the bulk of one whole storyline is the same character as another.
The book is needlessly opaque about what it’s about and so it feels like fabricated complexity. So it’s frustrating to put all these together.
This book is a perfect translation of a CW show. It’s all teens, it’s all plot, it’s nonsense, it’s silly and light, and nothing of consequence happens.
But it’s relatively entertaining. It’s perfectly well-written, but it only amounts to an ok book. In fact, it feels so clearly written to be sold into a tv series I can’t imagine it was working in the mind of the author except as a vehicle to be adapted. And that’s fine. The tv show is actually kind of good. It fits the melodramatic tone of the station and the long season (15 or so episodes) makes perfect sense so the narrative doesn’t have to rush. The book is really short and feel short, especially since it spends so much time world-building.
I don’t think there’s much thought put into how the world could actually function and be efficient and stay afloat, so it most definitely requires the tv show writers in order to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense. I am not going to read more of the books because of the tv show. Like I think I am covered with that.
So read it if you’re stuck for something, but if you have netflix, I can’t think of a single reason why not to just watch the show and let it stand in for whatever kind of literary experience you were thinking of having. It’s the purest definition of just fine. Just just fine.