Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Quick, by Lauren Owen

Today I'm talking about The Quick, a novel by Lauren Owen that if I was being entirely honest kind of falls out of the normal sort of thing I would read and/or listen to. To be entirely honest I didn't really enjoy this novel and I think it's mostly because I'm not the target audience for this story. I think for the sort of story that Owen is trying to do she manages to do it very well, but I'm just simply not the sort of person who goes in for that. So what sort of story is she telling? Well, The Quick is a book about vampires. Well, to be more accurate it's a book set in Victorian London in 1892 that happens to have vampires in it eventually.

The first part of the book feels a lot more like Victorian literary fiction because it deals with Charlotte and James Norbury, two children who grow up in a crumbling estate while their father spends all his time away on business. James eventually is sent away to school and heads to London to become a poet, where he falls into forbidden love with his male aristocratic roommate. This is all before any vampires show up whatsoever in the book, mind you. Aside from one or two vague foreshadowings of something unusual occurring later in the book, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled across a modern version of a mundane Victorian novel. I was actually beginning to wonder myself if I had read the short description incorrectly but eventually the vampires do show up and we get thrown into a dangerous underworld of London.

The thing that I noticed the most about this book was that it feels very much like a Victorian novel. It seemed to engage in a verbosity favored by writers such as Charles Dickens where ten words will be put in where one would do just as well. On the one hand, I can appreciate it because it's accurate to the literature of the time period and Owen does a good job of making it feel like a Victorian novel. On the other hand, this very verbosity is what drives me away from writers such as Dickens in the first place. As I said, I don't think I'm really the target audience for this sort of thing so I'm not really enjoying the book. That doesn't mean it has its own merits or is necessarily bad, but I just cannot stand Victorian style literature that engages in endless tangents and parentheticals just to pad the length out. Well, Dickens did it, Owen may just be imitating the style.

A thing which I found really weird though was that Owen kind of avoids using the word vampire as much as possible. The characters conscientiously avoid using the word and although vampire is actually used at a couple of points, it's remarkable how reluctant everyone is to actually use that word in a book ostensibly about vampires. And I'm not really sure about the reasoning behind it. I suppose on the one hand it could be because the characters are reluctant to admit that such things exist, even though they're struggling with them. This is sort of explored and most of the characters are reluctant to actually use the word. But at the same time it feels like Owen is almost embarrassed to be writing a book about vampires. As I sort of said earlier the first portion of the book is utterly mundane and deals with James's childhood and then his young adulthood in London after graduation and eventual relationship. The book starts off as, and throughout the rest of it, feels very much like literary fiction. It almost feels like the author is apologizing that vampires are in this book. I guess it could also be a stylistic choice but it feels really weird to me.

Ultimately the biggest problem I had with this book was it seemed dreadfully boring to me. It takes something as unusual and paranormal as vampires and manages to make it seem almost mundane to the point of tediousness. I just found myself wishing this book would be over more often than not. There are some plot threads left dangling which again, could be stylistic or could be deliberate sequel bait. In either case I didn't find myself caring enough to really be interested in those remaining threads. And I think ultimately I'm just not the target audience for this book. I'm not a huge fan of vampires or Victorian fiction so this book has got a lot going against it in my case before I've even taken a look inside. I'm sure there are people who like that sort of thing and probably enjoyed this book, but it just wasn't for me.

- Kalpar

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