I’m definitely giving a thumbs-up to Rick Moody for Four Fingers of Death. One reason I like the 4 so much is the voice of our most unreliable meta-narrator Montese Crandall, a citizen of what’s left of the US in 2025. Our man gets the nod to produce a screenplay for the remake of 1963’s The Crawling Hand; the bulk of the novel consists of Crandall’s novelization of said screenplay. But it’s Crandall’s own voice that narrates the introduction, and what I think is so brilliant on Moody’s part is to let us feel that (very weird) persona filter through to the first half of the novelization, which is told in the first person by one of the astronauts on their way to Mars. I just think that’s gotta be tough to get right as a writer, so all props to RM just for the chops. In the second half, the crawling hand (arm, actually) comes back to earth and we switch to a 3rd-person voice. Moody has cooked up an imaginative near-future dystopia, so I give him more props as a sci-fi writer. Maybe could have used some editing in that second half but hey, I dug it. If you’re not a fan of cheesy Baby-boom generation horror/sci-fi tropes like I am, then maybe it’s not for you, but I would encourage anybody to pick it up and read a few pages – if you don’t find Montese’s voice at least kind of creepily fascinating then you can put it down and walk away.
Up next: Franzen. I’m about 1/3 of the way through Freedom, liking it but wondering what up with my new unstable autobiographical narrator, Patty Berglund. Meanwhile, I also started the new Michael Connelly crime thriller (The Reversal) and people, it was like coming home to the favorite easy chair in the living room. Couple of chapters and he’s got our two familiar characters set up in a good new plot, and I have NO doubt that I’m gonna get my money’s worth. Connelly is just really really good at this. Literary fiction? Probably not. Franzen? Almost certainly. Honestly, I’m not sure I care that much about the distinction any more…good genre writers are worth their weight in gold.