Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stalagmites of Snot and other book notes

I just finished M.T. Anderson's The Game of Sunken Places. Stalagmites of snot is the best phrase in the book, which did not have much to offer besides that. Now, I know M.T. Anderson is a great writer. I loved FEED. LOVED IT. That's why I bought this book. I had reasonably high hopes and high expectations. But...I guess it's proof that not everyone makes a hit every time up to bat.

The basic premise of this novel is two friends, Brian and Gregory, who visit an ancient uncle "Max" at his mysterious Gothic home. The adventure ensues. The problem is, the reader can never really be sure what the adventure is. We don't know who the enemy is, whether the seemingly life-threatening moments really are life-threatening (they aren't, which is actually quite disappointing, because you soon realize none of them will be, which deadens any suspense for the rest of the book), or indeed, what the exact point of the 'game' is.

And then, it's as if Anderson decided that he would break all the normal rules of good writing. We get long, boring, hard to follow descriptions of the sort of alternate world the boys explore. Readers tend to hate that. A nice map or view of the gameboard would have sufficed. We get virtually no insight into the boys' persona's: Brian spends most of the book in a funk and we have no idea why. Gregory gets a nasty cold at one point, which takes him out of the game for a day, but then he's right back into the mix with nary a mention of his horrible illness again. What? The prologue is completely unnecessary and not illuminating at all. Extraneous. Should have been cut. Anderson throws in the adverbs liberally (pun intended), and many events happen "abruptly." He also uses auxiliary verbs often, as in "there was." It's as if he turned in his first draft and they published it as is. Ick.

There are some fun moments and characters. The troll is the best of the bunch. Then there is this little funny man who made all these machine creatures. He's hilarious. Anderson could have made far more use of them.

The main problem I had with this mysterious adventure is that the reader is not given enough clues to have a hope of figuring things out before the characters do. In fact, the deux ex machina ending is completely unsatisfying. There never was a threat or a real danger at all. Cousin Prudence, who seemed throughout the book to be all fluff and ditz, turns out to be the mastermind of it all. If she had been more of a presence throughout, that would have been more interesting.

I've read the reviews on, which all give the book glowing reports and thought it was fabulous, so obviously someone liked it. I won't say I hated this book, because if that were the case I never would have kept reading. I did keep reading mostly because I kept hoping some clues and suspense would develop. They didn't, and by that time I was at the end. I'm sorry I wasted my money on this lackluster non-adventure. Sigh.

Feel free to disagree with me.

On another note: I read Alane Ferguson's The Dying Breath. Now there's a book with suspense. Alane knows how to write a mystery, that's for sure. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, always suspicious of the deputy that she falls in love with. At one point I had a sneaky suspicion that the killer, Kyle, was going to turn out to be a vampire, and I was prepared to be really mad at Alane for that. Fortunately, he did not, and she gets big kudos in my book for keeping it real. (Not a big fan of the vampire trend.)



  1. "...the reader is not given enough clues to have a hope of figuring things out before the characters do."

    Hmm...this smacks of doulasex Marky Mark, does it not?

    <3 Alane Ferguson. Will have to get that book!

  2. If you can not be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.............................................