Friday, May 11, 2012

Another book review...of a much better book

This is much, much better.

After taking more than a week to drag myself through the last book I read which, if you saw the review I posted here I didn't like that much, it took me just two days to read Dead Time (Dutton, 2008; 400 pages), by Stephen White.

I hadn't read anything by Mr. White in awhile, and after this installment in the story of Dr. Alan Gregory and his family and friends, I suspect I'm going to be catching up on the volumes that I've missed in the past few years, while my reading attention was elsewhere. Simply, I had forgotten how good a writer Mr. White is, how he can spin an engrossing story, and how he is able to write realistic, multi-dimensional characters that are completely believable. He even makes the info-dump that most novels have to have, to catch the characters (as well as the reader) up on events, entertaining and readable.

For those of you not familiar with this series, Dr. Alan Gregory is a psychologist living in Boulder,, Colorado and who has an unfortunate (well, fortunate for the reader) habit of getting caught up in murder and mayhem. In this case Meredith, his ex-wife, calls on him to find the woman who is carrying her child as a surrogate when the woman disappears under mysterious circumstances. Those circumstances end up having to do with the disappearance of another young woman at the Grand Canyon some years before, in event that involved both the surrogate and Meredith's fiancee, Eric.

The story, this time, opens out from Boulder and stretches to New York City and Los Angeles, where Dr. Gregory manages to get himself in over his head on more than one front. I really hesitate to say anything more about the story, because I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't yet read it. I will say that there are family complications along the way for the doctor, in the form of a new adopted son and as his current wife, Lauren, sets out for Holland to find the child she had given up for adoption before she knew the doctor.

That is one of the things I appreciate about Mr. White's books. He is able to juggle the main plot and side plots in a way that makes them seem like one whole, rather than a story with an "Oh, by the way" or two cobbled on in order to make the world creates for the reader more like real life, where there are usually five different, and mostly unrelated, things going on at the same time. This ability makes his books more than just a straight line from one event in the story to the next, again like real life. As there are few straight lines in nature, there are very few in real life.

And that was one of the problems with Natural Selection, the previous novel I read and reviewed. It was one straight line, jumping from one event to the next, with very little respite, and very little believability. And, by the way, info-dumps that were excruciating to read. I didn't realize how little believability, in fact, until I had the reading, so close in time, of Dead Time to compare it to.

I like the books I read to make me feel like I have fallen into the world the author has invented for the book, whether it is the "real" world or a close facsimile thereof, or a completely invented world. And I like to feel like I have been on a journey, rather than on a sprint to the finish line.

Dead Time is a good book, and a an excellent reading experience. I wish I could find more novels with so much texture to them.

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