A Novel that Doesn’t Understand Restraint or Storytelling.
It has been a while since I last reviewed a book, but this recent book that I have been trying to read has been so horrendously bad that it is difficult to even read from start to finish. Give in mind that I have read books that were almost as bad as Empress Teresa, that is saying a lot. So with that in mind, here is an honest review of Sir Salman Rushdie’s Two Years, Eight Months & Twenty Eight Nights.
To begin this review, let me tell how I came across this novel. I was walking through the Hong Kong International Airport, waiting for my return flight to Beijing and I came across a Relay Bookstore and decided to take a look around. I eventually came across the aforementioned title and decided to take a look at it. Based on the back cover and the list of ‘excellent’ reviews that are plastered on not only the front and back covers, but the inside cover, I figured it would be good. This is a copy of the book description from the Amazon page that is similar to what is mentioned on the back cover.
In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.
Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.
Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.
Now, from my perspective, it sounds like this book would be several different and out there stories that are connected by a similar trait and come to a cohesive whole by the end. But after reading this book, I have to say that it is amazing how easy it is to get a book review to say good things about your book. These are some of the ‘reviews’ that are plastered over the minimalist cover of the book.
- ‘Sensational…it is unlike not only anything you may have read by Rushdie but by anyone anywhere’ –The Times
- ‘Great Fun’ –Guardian
- ‘Will no doubt be read for generations to come’ –Evening Standard
Are you fucking kidding me?
After reading this book, I am a full believer that half, not all of these reviews were bought. Hell, there are three reviews on the book from Guardian praising this book as if it was Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and let me just say, it’s not. It’s clearly not. You know what a book that will be ‘read for generations’? David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Do you know what’s ‘great fun’? Any book other than this one!
Sorry, I lost it there. Let’s actually be productive and talk about why this book fails on many levels. Let’s start off with the basic story and I use that term lightly because of the disheveled means of story telling that this author uses.
The story would follow several characters such as a gardener named Mr. ‘Geronimo’ Manezes who can find that he can float above the ground, a ‘budding’ graphic novelist that finds that his dancing deity superhero came to life and a baby named Lightning who can make ‘corrupt’ people break out in blemishes. This is because thousands of years ago, a princess of the Jinn named Dunia fell in love with a man named Ibn Rushd and produced a literal f-load of crossbreed children. When the human world and the Jinn’s world which is called ‘Fairyland’ (*At this point, I am already reaching for the vodka*) and some of the Jinn bring chaos, Dunia and her ‘children’ have to save both of their worlds from war. Now, on the surface, this sounds like an interesting story. BUT, when it comes down to it, it is told in a such a horrible way, it makes it a struggle to keep interested in the story.
After the first few pages of backstory between Dunia and Ibn, the book begins with the first character, Geronimo, and his story. He wakes up after a great storm and realizes that he is floating off of the ground. After a series of events, he loses his job after sleeping with the owner of one of the mansions he works at and later gets thrown out of his apartment because of his floating. Now, when the reader starts to become interested in this man’s plight, it cuts off the story almost immediately to go back to Dunia’s story before moving on to another story. What really made me want to throw this book across the room after reading it was later where Dunia’s father died from poisoning and the Jinn are discussing how to deal with the issue. Dunia actually suggests a sex-strike before the idea of either killing or imprisonment.
A sex-strike…How fucking high was this author when he wrote this? I get that in the story they try to make the Jinn this species of hyper-sexual beings but when literally the first idea to get back at the murders of the main character’s father and their king is to do the same thing Lysistrata in Chi-Raq did, I have to say the book is almost irredeemable.
That’s the one of the largest problem with this book, there is little to no consistency with the story telling. Any notion of a linear story in this book is thrown clear out the window. Even Ninja versus Pirate Featuring Zombies by James Marshal had more of a linear story, even with it’s dadaist story elements and distractions. Because of the irregular storytelling, it also makes the reader forget a lot of details about the book and forget even the ‘main’ characters.
Speaking of the book’s characters, this book tries to force so many different characters with different stories into the book, that the reader either A. Doesn’t care or B. Forgets the characters. This is even for the characters that are mentioned in the cover and book description. I completely forgot about what the graphic novelist’s name was and I forgot about what these characters were supposed to look like. I remember characters from the Redwall series I read years ago better than the characters in this book I read recently. I understand that the author was trying to create his own mythos and universe in this story to the extent of giving every side character a story, but it backfires so much in this story that it makes it unreadable. Also, there is little reason to be concerned for these characters. As a reader, I don’t feel attached to or concerned about these character’s well beings. The baby? Who cares? Dunia’s father? Who gives a shit? Even with a supposed war that could doom the world, I don’t really care what happens for these people. For a story to be memorable, you have to make characters that the reader will want to remember.
Another problem that this book has is that the dialogue between the characters is almost non-existent. What should be dialogue between characters is shoehorned into this book as painfully long blocks of exposition. Also, because of the often long going blocks of text that are abundant throughout the book, what dialogue there is is lost, especially with a lack of quotation marks to signify that there is dialogue happening in the text.
As mentioned before, the writing style that the author employs in this book is trying to appear Tolkien-esque with it’s constant barrage of backstory for every character and ‘legend’. But the problem is that he is trying to force too much into a book that is only 286 pages, which detracts from the overall story and the characters. It also doesn’t help that from reading this, the author is trying to say more that what needs to be said. This is also might be a personal issue, but the book describes how Dunia and Ibn had numerous children whose genetics spread across the world but most of the important characters are of Indian descent. It would have been more interesting and compelling if the story focused on characters from noticeably different backgrounds. Genghis Khan managed to create children and descendants of different cultures and races but this book is more focused on Indian culture alone.
The final judgement for this book. Just don’t touch it. This book is an absolute farce that is trying to be something that it clearly isn’t. I don’t know who should be more ashamed, the author who wrote this book or the people who were clearly paid to give it a good review.
If you want to read this book in need of severe editing and Ritalin, the book is available at major retailers such as Amazon.