Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: The Kind Worth Killing

The Kind Worth Killing The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’d like to define “plot twist” as when a writer, having given us a set of facts and a context for them, surprises us by reorganizes them in a way that causes us to see them in a new way. When a plot twist works, it’s a particular kind of satisfaction; it’s a message that you’re in the hands of a skilled story teller, someone who not only has a story to tell but who also has a consistent sense of how you’re reacting to that story. He or she sets you up. All the facts are there from the start; you just take it for granted that they’re organized in the direct way you get them.

I start with that definition because I feel as if Swanson violates it throughout this novel. Yes, the novel is full of surprises – it rarely goes the way you think it will go. (I could supply several spoilers, and they’d be obvious if you do read the book.) But a surprise isn’t necessarily a twist. Swanson redirects his narrative by giving us new facts, by more or less dropping in new characters or filling out scenes we had no way of seeing more fully before. These aren’t plot twists in the satisfying way, where a narrator pulls a sleight of hand to make you realize something small was actually something consequential. Instead, this is plot twist in what feels a clumsy fashion. It’s as if the narrator says, “Wait, there’s something I didn’t tell you before this, and now the story is different.” It feels as if we are subject to his whims rather than caught in his larger design.

I suspect there are some readers who enjoy the way the book begins as one kind of story, turns into another, and then turns into yet another. I find it frustrating to discover new and consequential characters stepping into the story as late as the final pages. Yes, that violates genre and expectation which has the potential to be interesting For me, though, it feels less like originality than sloppiness. Maybe Swanson knew how his story would go from the moment he began it, but it feels as if he’s changing the rules along the way.

I’ll give credit in saying I did finish this, and I did enjoy it’s final, final twist. Still, I kept at this in large part as a kind of lesson in how I might write in this genre myself. Most of what I learned is going in the what-not-to-do category.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment