Duma Key (3.5 stars)
But, given that I’m largely home-bound because of the coronavirus, and I’ve got two small kids to take care of, I’m not left with much time to listen to my books. So, I pulled this book off of one of my many book shelves, dusted it off, and began reading the old fashioned way. And the experience has been a pleasure. It’s reminded me of why I fell in love with reading in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong – I love audiobooks. So long as you find a narrator that appeals to you, there’s no easier way to read. I feel like it draws you in differently, and it allows you to do other things, which is nice given the seemingly constant need for distraction that we all seem to struggle with. But it’s nice taking a break every now and then. It’s nice rediscovering the voice in your own head. While actually reading the book may not be as freeing or easy as listening to a recording of someone else reading it, I feel like the characters come alive in a wholly different way. The world is richer. The characters are more distinct.
And, given the subject matter of Duma Key, I think it worked better cerebrally than it would have aurally.
This book could almost work as a companion to Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore. Both are about a man who has gone through a sudden divorce, and then moved to a new place to refocus on their art, only to end up discovering newfound skill that is both shocking and mind-blowing.
Killing Commendatore is a very Murakami-esque novel. Surreal and dreamlike, there’s an undercurrent of raw emotion that is at times haunting, and at others perplexing. Duma Key is very Kingian. Edgar Freemantle is a fairly typical everyman. He gets injured at work, and chooses to retire early to focus on his recovery. His marriage falls apart, and he ends up moving to Florida for a change of scenery. He settles into a large pink house on Duma Key, a mostly private island. This house, which he calls “Big Pink”, has been an artist’s retreat for decades, and the owner, Elizabeth Eastlake, is an old woman slowly falling into the misty confusion of Alzheimer’s. Her caretaker, Jerome Wireman, is a charming man with trauma in his past, and he and Edgar strike up a strong friendship.
Edgar begins painting – for the first time in his life. He drew when he was younger, but hasn’t done much more than doodle as an adult. There’s….something about Duma Key that brings out a long-dormant artistic talent. And that talent can effect the world around him.
I thought this fit quite nicely in the “pretty good” range of King novels. I’m reminded of my feelings for The Institute or Under the Dome. I enjoyed them for what they were, but they didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me.
The Totally Awesome Hulk (Vol. 1): Cho Time (4 stars) – CBR12Bingo: Green
Amadeus Cho, the eight smartest person on earth, has taken on the Hulk persona, and he wants to be the best Hulk ever. Not only is he smart (let’s face it, “smart” in a comic book is a largely meaningless term. It’s like “science” in Star Trek: it’s just there to fill in the gaps for the writers), but he’s also a smartass. So that makes him much like Spider Man, or any number of other heroes.
But, he’s a superhero who is also of Asian descent (Korean, I think). So that’s different.
The writing was engaging, and the art was fantastic (shout-out to artist Frank Cho). I don’t know that there’s anything really ground-breaking – but I enjoyed this one immensely.
The Last Emperox (3 stars)
The Flow streams are breaking down, the Emperor has finally wrested control of the Empire from her enemies (or has she?), and everyone seems unwilling to take the plight of their civilization seriously. In what is an obvious allegory for climate change – John Scalzi wraps up his series, but leaves this reader underwhelmed.
I remember enjoying it, but that’s about it. This is one of those books that kind of drifted away from my consciousness as soon as I finished it.
Which is, I think, a first for John Scalzi. He’s one of my favorite writers, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series – this one just kind of fizzled, for me. Maybe it’s because the villains were just a little too villainous for me (as opposed to real people), the heroine seemed a little flat, and the secondary characters were pretty one-note. Maybe it was just general fatigue with the story. Maybe it was because the story was wrapped up a little too neatly. There was never really any doubt how it would end (though the fate of one character did surprise me, I’ll admit).
I don’t know.
But it seems like the characters were a big reason for my apathy for this book. I’ve read that Stephen King creates his characters and kind of lets them exist within the framework of his stories. So his stories kind of grow around his characters. This is probably why he’s so great at characterization – it’s often the driving force of his books. I think Scalzi did the opposite, here. He had a story, and peopled it with characters who served whatever function he need of them. So they didn’t work, for me.
Or maybe I just read it at the wrong time.
Whatever it was, this book has not stuck with me.
I’m counting The Totally Awesome Hulk as my Green square for CBR12Bingo.