The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox has a lot going on in it, but too little of it, unfortunately for me, captured my interest or attention and so I ended up giving up about 40% of the way through.
Taryn Cornick’s sister died years ago after being struck by a car — apparently purposely, though it’s unclear. Now, with the driver soon to be getting out of prison, Taryn meets a strangely compelling hunter known as The Muleskinner, who offers up a tempting proposal that will change Taryn’s life as much as her sister’s death. Soon, Taryn finds herself being haunted by threatening phone calls, hounded by a relentlessly inquisitive policeman, caught up in an investigation by (maybe) MI5, possessed by a demon, conversing with faerie and gods, and traveling between our world and other ones. And, as noted, that’s all before the halfway point.
Which is, also as noted, about as far as I got. While I liked a lot of the concepts in the novel, and a few of the set scenes, I was never caught up in either plot or character. I often had the sense characters were not acting as actual people would in the given situations and instead were acting as characters in a novel needed to act. I never felt engaged by them, as they seemed more crafted than alive. This was a running issue for me and had a cumulative effect so that it became harder and harder for me to enjoy the novel as it continued. Style acted as a barrier as well due to Knox’s abundance of detail. At times it’s effective and lovely, but just as often I felt I was getting detail that didn’t further either plot or characterization and so for me simply slowed the story down unnecessarily, making the novel feel all of its 600+ pages and more. Finally, the plot often felt muddy (as opposed to complex).
There are definite talent and craft here, but for me at least, they didn’t combine to create an interesting story or compelling characters.