Monday, April 12, 2010

I Am Not A Serial Reader

Over the weekend, I did something that I don't think I'd ever done before. I read an entire novel in one sitting. Okay, it was like three sittings over the course of a single evening, but you get my point. Now, I've come close--I read the last 200 pages of Breakfast of Champions in a single sitting (which I don't recommend, by the way, because it will literally make your brain hurt). But I'd never finished one within 24 hours of acquiring it. The novel in question is Dan Wells' debut--I Am Not A Serial Killer.

I was exposed to Dan Wells because of his involvement with Writing Excuses, a weekly writing podcast he puts on with Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, The Gathering Storm) and Howard Taylor (Schlock Mercenary) and had heard enough about the novel from the podcasts to get a basic gist of the story: the hero is a teenage sociopath who faces someone or something that's murdering people in his small town and there's a supernatural element involved. I enjoy Wells' contributions to the podcast and was intrigued by what I'd heard enough to want to read it.

And I wanted to buy it new, since Wells is a new author whom I have some respect for, and I'd like him to be able to keep doing what he's doing. Unfortunately, I didn't want to buy it off Amazon, as I would have to spend $15 more dollars to qualify for free shipping, and I had one hell of a time finding it in bookstores. I eventually tracked it down a week and a half after it was released in a Borders, in the "Literature" section. Why that? God knows. It's thriller, although you could call it spec-fiction without stretching your imagination too much. Or you could even call it Young-Adult (I happen to know that is was marketed as such in some countries) because there's no sex, no cursing, and a fifteen-year-old protagonist.

But I found it and I cracked it open and was immediately engaged by the pitch-black humor of the protagonist. Four chapters later, the gory bits had begun and I kept reading because I had to know how this all resolved. The plot twists were surprising, the character moments were all very satisfying, and after a few hours I'd reached the 150 page mark and decided to go to bed.

But I couldn't sleep. I was too invested in the story. Besides, I was over half-way through it, so I went back downstairs to plow through so more. At a quarter to 4 in the morning, I set it down, exhausted and exasperated but thoroughly satisfied.

None of this should have happened. It's just not me. I'm not a voracious reader--I'm not even a particularly fast reader. I love a good story, but I get distracted easily and start probably twice as many books as I finish. Supernatural anything is a turn-off for me (note the big red A on the left), and I have a hard time getting into horror--books or movies. I've read exactly one Dean Koontz novel and I was supremely dissatisfied with the way it resolved. I won't say which one because I hate spoilers, but suffice it so say that the ending felt like the main character was cheating at a choose-your-own-adventure novel. I've started half a dozen Stephen King books, but only managed to finish two of them: Carrie because it was short and succinct, and Salem's Lot because the story is beautifully tragic and compelling, despite King's tendency to give every single character the voice of a goddamned country bumpkin. Even the elevator pitch for this book strikes me as a bit empty and derivative: a supernatural thriller starring a teenage Dexter Morgan. And yet, it works, and it works really, really well.

So if you're looking for some interesting reading and don't mind the macabre (while it is cuss-less and sex-less, it's not shy about gore), have a go at I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells.


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