Friday, February 3, 2012
100 Books #10 - Guy Adams' RESTORATION
I'm not 100% sure how correctly to refer to the title of this book. The cover and its nature as a sequel to The World House lend themselves to the idea of its title being The World House Restoration, but everywhere I see mentions of it, it's called simply Restoration. So much more than three words are lost, though, in snipping that title down to a pithy but almost too ambiguous Restoration.. But that's a small quibble, and, well, I'm afraid I do have bigger ones.
I wanted to like this book so much more than the prior one. The World House was a hot mess in every way, messing with readers' expectations, messing with basic ideas about home and safety, messing with genre conventions, messing especially with metaphors and metaphorical ideas -- a mess, too, in that it was muddling around with too many characters, too many little story arcs, more impressed with its genuinely amazing and imaginative setting than with story. And, as I complained of at length in my entry on it last year, a mess of formatting problems.
So yeah, I wanted to like this book more, especially when I noticed that it was not burdened too terribly with the formatting/presentation problems of The World House (though it could still stand more editing, or at least a course on usage for Mr. Adams, who consistently uses the wrong "it's" throughout. For the possessive, inside or outside the Commonwealth, one omits the apostrophe, sir). I wanted to, but ultimately I couldn't, because there was even less of a story here than in the first book.
At least Restoration shares the first book's strengths, which are formidable. Guy Adams is a sick, sick man, and misses no opportunity for a gross-out, an anguished or chilling image, a subversion of what ought to be a banal setting or scene into something that makes one, for instance, never, ever want to dine at a chain steakhouse again. He paints his grotesque, harrowing, frightening scenes deftly and with creepy flair (I also don't ever want to dance to Wurlitzer music); he's one of the best in the business at that.
But the story is a big old mess, one about which I found myself almost completely unable to care or even comprehend half of the time. A time travel thread is pretty neatly handled, but its connection to the rest of the stuff going on is tenuous as hell; I gave up even trying to make it after a while. A fantastic, near-omnipotent villain (the prisoner who was the House's original and intended occupant before the characters in the prior novel blundered and let him escape) is amok in the world and is, I'm pretty sure, a self portrait of the author (whom I don't think I ever want to meet). Shades of Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon there; omnipotent villains are such fun, aren't they? But how he meets his fate makes not a lot of sense either.
After a while, I just stopped trying to find a story at all and just read this book as a Rings of Saturn-style series of set pieces, which wound up working rather well (and very effectively, if by "effective" one means "oh god pass the brain bleach now"), but isn't ideally what one looks for in a novel. Which is too bad, really.
Guy Adams should be hired to design spook houses for carnivals. And then paid very, very well to roll up his plans and hide them away lest anyone actually try to build them. Shudder.