I recently read two books with apocalyptic overtones. Neither were great but both were eminently readable, if weird and unfocused…
Cult X *
It’s almost impossible for a book as popular as Fuminori Nakamura’s Cult X to get anything less than a 3+ star rating on GoodReads. A book usually has enough vociferous defenders who give it gratuitous 5s to put it over the top. That this one was hovering at 2.97 when I picked it up was not a good sign for its prospects.
I loved the first 100 pages. I felt like I understood what Nakamura was trying to do.
But then the book not only goes off the rails but finds a different track, crashes into all the trains ahead of it and takes them off the rails too. Meandering plots, random characters, a (lot!) of weird sex stuff, much of it nonconsensual.
I think a lot gets lost in the subtle and not-so-subtle critiques of Japanese culture, some of which were apparent to me, others not so much.
It’s a 2 star book but it’s a readable 2 star book. I was like the Kombucha Meme Lady changing my facial expression every 20-40 pages or so. Parts of the book were beautiful and moving. Most of it sloppy and unrefined. I don’t regret reading it and how rare is that to say about a book that’s 500+ pages? But it’s barely a book, more so a collection of scenes, characters and criticisms.
This is one of the first Stephen King books I read. I remember liking it a lot at the time but I had forgotten most of it. Over the years, the reviews had not been kind. When I saw a free copy lying around somewhere (I forget where), I decided to revisit it.
I’m glad I did. I knocked it down a star from my original 4-star review; this is one of King’s more mediocre efforts. But it’s still got great moments and a fantastic finish. I know many find the plot meandering but given that I’ve dealt with many a meandering King plot, I found it to be more focused than much of his stuff. It’s not great but it’s a decent effort from the master and I didn’t mind the opportunity to revisit it.