Passage by Connie Willis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"Helter skelter" is the most apt way I can think of to describe this book. Even though I have waded through a few doozies in the past, I truly had to struggle my way through this one.
My chief complaints about this book were:
1. Far far too long.
Even though the premise of the novel was enticing, I quickly found that the constant discussions about the RIPT scans and the cortisol levels quickly became boring. The same jokes were used, the characters grew boring and seemed strained by the end of the novel. The plot simply wasn't strong enough to support the length of the novel. There were many different paragraphs and details that could have been pruned which would have overall made the book an easier read, in my humble opinion.
2. Weak characters.
Already mentioned a bit, but the characters were not very likable or interesting. How often do we have to hear about Mr. Mandrake buttonholing Joanna in the hallways? The relationship between her and Richard is never fully developed... My biggest gripe is that no one seems to change for the better, barring Kit who remains a background character throughout the novel. Is anyone able to empathize with Joanna? Anyone at all? The only character that I felt slight twinges of sympathy for was Mr. Briarley and even his literary interjections grew old quickly.
3. What was the point?
I won't go into great detail about the ending of the book, but I will say that it was tragic and saddening. The final epiphany that Joanna has is supposedly utilized to save someone's life at the end of the novel, but does it really? What occurs differently that truly gives merit to her discovery? And wasn't it right in front of her the entire time? The author drags us through the minds of these people attempting to figure out a puzzle that starts to feel unimportant halfway through the novel. Everyone seems to be running around trying to figure things out and it just became such an EXHAUSTING read.
The things I did enjoy were:
1. The general premise of the book.
It was interesting to read someone else's opinion of what the afterlife would be like. Having grown up in a Christian and religious home, I have been taught about the cherubims and seraphims and streets of gold. The idea of it taking place in a disaster scene was intriguing and presented something so remotely alien to anything I would ever have guessed.
2. The tidbits of facts.
I enjoyed the little bits of knowledge that were imparted about the Titanic and the other disasters that were mentioned. If the book raised any strong emotion in me, it was sadness over the plight of all those passengers who died courageously when the Titanic sank. I also very much liked reading the famous last words of people.
In conclusion -- I probably won't read this book again, which is a strong tell for me. I wish that the editor had taken the novel in hand and slashed a good amount of stuff from it, including the winding descriptions from "Ed" about Pearl Harbour. Not amusing or interesting at all.
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