Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Robert Smith is about to enter the Twilight Zone...

Brooks, Kevin. 2007. Being.

This is the third book by Kevin Brooks that I have read. The others being Candy and Road of the Dead. After each book, I tend to have the same response: good but not necessarily for me. If I were to describe my perfect book it wouldn't be about a teen boy who finds a drug-addicted prostitute at McDonalds to be his girlfriend with somewhat tragic results. It wouldn't be about a teen boy with somewhat telepathic abilities solving his sister's rape/murder. Both books were fine in the sense that they were written well. There is nothing wrong with the style--the language, the prose--of it all. He knows how to keep a reader drawn into the story. I haven't ever felt his books to be boring. I kept reading. I never felt so frustrated or irritated that I gave up on his books. Yet, his books aren't the kind that make you feel all nice (warm and fuzzy), if you will, at the end of them. They're dark. They're edgy. They're suspenseful. They're slightly odd. I think that is why most people read and enjoy them.

BEING is an odd book. A very odd book. I had been warned, if you will, in one of my yahoo groups that it had a very unsatisfying, very unresolved ending. And it does. Believe me. But I am never one to take anyone's word for it. I like to judge books for myself. A good review or a bad review. It doesn't matter. I like to read for myself and come to my own conclusions. Here's what I've decided. The writing was good in the sense that I kept reading. It was intense. It was dark. It took me places where I didn't necessarily want to go. It raised more questions than it answered. It was very mysterious. Very suspenseful. But in the end, when you're left hanging with no resolution whatsoever...then you've got to ask yourself why. What am I supposed to take away from this book besides the feeling of confusion? of doubt? Questions. Questions. Always questions. No answers.

Being is a thrilling adventure full of drama, chase scenes, bad guys, good guys, etc. It opens with a teen boy, 16, going to the hospital for a routine medical procedure. But very soon, the reader knows to expect the unexpected. Robert wakes up in the middle of surgery--an unexpected surgery--to find the "doctors" holding guns and talking of mysterious secrets. Secrets about him. They're saying all sorts of weird things about him. That he isn't human. That his body is a machine. That he is made of plastic. Of metal. That he is an undescribable wonder of some sort. Sluggish from the drugs, he knows one thing: he must escape the hospital. So he takes a gun, and takes a hostage.

There begins the action. It is a long chase. Days go by, weeks, months, even. He's always on the run. He's always trying to find out more. More about himself. Who is he. What he is. Who created him if he's not human. Why they created him. More about the bad guys. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they after him? Why are they killing anyone and everyone who knows about him? That knows him? Questions. Questions. More questions.

As a reviewer, I would never tell the answers to these questions typically. Most writers have a conflict, raise questions, and then resolve them. Not Brooks. Not this time. There are no secrets to reveal. No big finish that makes this questioning process all worth while. The reader is left always wondering.

For me BEING is like watching the first hour of a science fiction movie, but then missing the second half. It's like an unresolved Twilight Zone. But the Twilight Zone comparison is a good one, I think. I think that's the style and essence of this book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got an ARC of Being at ALA Midwinter, and I have to say I felt the same way. The unresolved ending is something Brooks also did in Kissing the Rain, but in that book, I felt it was more successful (if still maddening). I'm not against books that don't answer all your questions -- in fact, I tend to like them, and I've read some good ones. This one just disappointed me.