A few years ago, Roger Ebert famously reviewed a movie (Tru Loved) after watching only the first eight minutes. Some people were outraged. He eventually apologized, watched the whole thing, and gave it the exact same putrid score of one star. Ebert argued, and I tend to agree, that after decades of reviewing movies, he could analyze the beginning of the film and extrapolate its complete and total crappiness. While I am no Roger Ebert, I must confess that I did not read the entirety of The Eye of God. I read the first 150 pages and stopped. I considered stopping after 40 pages, and after consulting numerous positive reviews, I soldiered on. I considered it again at the 100-page mark, and then I finally gave up. Why did I quit? The plot involves a heavenly body hurtling toward earth that will destroy the planet and everyone on it. I quit because I didn’t care if the world ended. That’s never a good sign.
Unlike Tru Loved, The Eye of God does not deserve one star. It’s not the work of an amateur. Clearly, many people love Rollins’ novels, and he know how to write to that audience. In fact, The Eye of God has the makings of an interesting story, and I could see it as an excellent summer movie, if placed in the hands of a good director. However the characters are bland, and the dialogue is boring and bogged down with exposition. Conversations between characters are mostly exchanges of explanations. Coincidences abound. I would love to say that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I read it, but I was specifically looking for a fun summer book. And despite reading only half the novel, I can say with certainty that the world does not explode in the final chapter. Too bad.
I wouldn’t be surprised if most of my generation, like me, first encountered Julia Child by way of a Saturday Night Live skit in which Dan Aykroyd, portraying the chef, cuts himself and bleeds out copiously. I wasn’t alive when the episode first aired, but it has lived on in the highlight reels of SNL for decades now. It’s telling how ubiquitous the segment is. As with all good satire (or, at the very least, gratuitous blood jokes), it finds inspiration from Child’s own occasional blunders and her perseverance and good attitude in the event of accidents. It’s also telling that she found the skit funny. Julia Child undoubtedly led an interesting and adventurous life, and Bob Spitz’s telling of it is accurately exuberant. At times though, it’s a little too exuberant, as it tends toward the word choice of a reporter schooled in the Whiz-Bang, Gee Whiz Academy of Adjectives and Adverbs. Spitz also relies on too many clichés. That being said, the author is a great storyteller and crafts many wonderful scenes, and his acumen in this department allows the reader to forgive his shortcomings.
I’ve never been a fan of Neil Gaiman, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane did nothing to change my stance. During the entirety of the slim volume, I dedicated most of my mental effort to deciding whether the book felt like a short story that was far too long or a novel that was far too short. Its word count places it firmly in the no man’s land of the novella, though it confidently boasts on its cover–perhaps a tad optimistically–that it’s a novel. The writing is lovely, but the tale never grabbed me. A mystical force of good attempts to protect a boy from a mystical force of evil; memory is strange and fickle; magical witch women don’t age. Tell me something I don’t know.