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Why is this slowly becoming the month of books I really want to like but are laid low by really stupid ideas for endings? That's a terrible theme for a book blog, and in this case, where the ending ramps up to nowhere, it's especially egregious. Near Enemy enraged me when I read it, not because of its amazing depiction of a paranoid post-terror New York where anyone with money plugs themselves into a virtual world and forgets about the outside, but because the final sentences lead off into nowhere. Now, I have not yet finished Adam Sternbergh's first novel, the highly-acclaimed Shovel Ready (released a few months prior to Near Enemy), but I would hope it doesn't leave off unfinished at a random point before the assumed climax, or I would be forced to conclude that the man is one of those people who tells long stories at parties that go absolutely nowhere, trails off right when it sounds like it's going somewhere, and then never returns to it.
But maybe a book with no ending won't bother you nearly as much as it did me. Maybe you will await the third installment on tenterhooks-- not your tenterhooks, of course, it's much more fun to use someone else's, but tenterhooks all the same. Maybe you'll see it as some kind of artistic choice. A terrible, terrible artistic choice. I'd suggest taking this one out of the library, or if you can find it for free somewhere by some miracle. But unless you're a disappointment fetishist, I'd strongly suggest that perhaps you don't buy this book. It's a lot of buildup for a few lackluster reveals and a plot that eventually ends just when it was getting good.
More, as always, below
I should, by all accounts, like this book a lot. I love found document stories. I love gothic mysteries. I even love Edward Gorey and pastiches that borrow from Gorey (still trying to track down the volumes of Amphigorey that my dad doesn't own so I can add them to the collection). And I love mad science. There is literally no reason why I shouldn't like this book. The main character even has a love of The X-Files bordering on the obsessive. That's something I can get behind.
But there is something that makes me pause. The book I spent nights breathlessly reading for page after page after page did something I disliked immensely. And then, against better judgement, kept doing it. And I'm going to try as hard as I can to keep this top portion spoiler-free the way I usually do and not give up too much, but I've gotta say this: Get the book for its awesome design and format. Read it because it's an incredibly quirky and intelligent read. Then throw it across the room because Edgar Cantero can't for the life of him end a book in the proper manner. After that, you're welcome to do whatever you wish. Personally, I'm looking forward to Edgar Cantero's next book.
This one was really good, even despite its issues.
More, as always, below.
In my time running this blog, I've begun to wonder if I've become cynical. Hardened. Inured to the charms of some books. I wondered this when I read Down Town and failed to be captivated. I wondered this when I got slightly annoyed at the main character of one of my all-time favorite books, The Neverending Story. And I wondered it here. When I was sixteen, I read a lot of books like Motorman. Hell, when I was seventeen, too. I thought I was profound because I sought out strange books like Electric Jesus Corpse and In The Watermelon Sugar. Because I was the only person my age I knew who'd read Time's Arrow. And, well, Motorman was the kind of book I'd have read back then, read and recommended to a whole bunch of my friends, who probably would have punched me for it. Hell, even three years ago in the pre-breakdown time of 2012*, I was still reading Trout Fishing in America and feeling like I'd rediscovered something in myself.
I enjoyed reading Motorman. I just want to get that out of the way, because the rest of this review is going to be very introspective and very weird and probably as much of an insight into the reviewer as an insight into the book. The issue with reviewing Motorman in a conventional way and adhering religiously to the format I've slowly tinkered with over the past four years is that Motorman itself resists conventional analysis a bit. It's a book that slips around chronologically as it examines the inner and outer contents of its main character's head, a book that trades more on feeling and atmosphere and weird, gooey tactile sensations than on any conventional plot or structure. There are points where the book seems to have an agenda and a point it wants to make about the interplay between the real and the artificial, and possibly the nature of things in general, but the narrative doesn't concern itself with making anything obvious. It just kind of lets the story about a four-hearted man trying to meet his mad scientist friend sink in and just kind of is.
It's certainly a book unlike many I have read. It's a unique experience, and while I enjoyed it, I'm not sure I could completely recommend it to people. I'm not sure I'd even recommend it to myself as much. But I did thoroughly enjoy it.
More, as always, below.