Thursday, October 20, 2011

Egan, Jennifer (A Visit from the Goon Squad)

The first thing I have to say about reading this is that it is very difficult on a Kindle. Our wonderful new-fangled devices don't make it easy to read something that consistently requires you to remember what came in earlier chapters. While you can skip back through chapters, it is time-consuming and doesn't yield what's needed faster than flipping paper pages.

Egan's novel is at its heart a set of stories, each interrelated-- so you can see the difficulty here. These relationships are also not as easy to maneuver as they may sound. A character's high school buddy may be easy to recognize in two earlier chapters but almost invisible in the final chapter, until Egan gives you hints. I find it difficult to remember using hints, and I'm also absolutely terrible at names. So, more work than I wanted.

But it's not the case that this was entirely unenjoyable. Any book with an entire chapter of graphs is at least humorous! If, instead of working so hard, you take each story as its own mini-cosmos, each of them provides an immense amount of well-crafted detail. It certainly felt as if I fully understood each major (and sometimes more minor) character. But because each character is so tightly woven with the others, I wanted a full resolution for all of them at the end, and that (I don't think; again, I could have missed this!) you do not get.

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