July was another month of not reading much. I was still sore from the car accident, and so reading was not a priority. Water For Elephants was for a swap, so I had to have it read before July 29th.
It’s the Great Depression, and Jacob Jankowski’s having a rough time. His parents have just been killed in an automobile accident, and he’s unable to understand his final exams, that would let him become a veterinarian. He decides to jump onto a train, and discovers it’s a crew car for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. He gets a job setting up the show, and from there becomes the show’s veterinarian.
Book’s okay, but not great. The setting is fantastic. I loved the circus, but I’m fourth generation showman, so I’m partial to circuses, shows, and midways. The entire setting is great: putting up the tents, the menagerie, the animals, everything. Even the way they did food, pay, and people getting redlighted (thrown off the train) was fascinating.
Rosie was one of my favorite characters in the book. An elephant that only understands Polish, loves lemonade and sweets? I loved her. I loved how she was painted to be intelligent enough to make decisions, and communicate with Jacob. I also enjoyed Camel, Walter, and Queenie. They added flavor that made up for the other problems.
The problem, is that I didn’t like the rest of it. Jacob is hollow. I can see he’s suffering from shock in the beginning of the book, with his parents brutally killed. But he goes from shock to infatuation, without there being any in between. Sure, there are moments when he’s upset, and when he confides in people, but those are glossed over with “I told so and so everything about this event” and then we go back to shell of Jacob. When he’s an old man, he’s more interesting, but he’s more of the cranky old man who’s afraid of being forgotten. I’m not 93, I can’t relate to him. I like the idea he doesn’t want to take a pill and turn into a jello eating sheep, and I can sympathize with that, being on anti depressants, but I can’t really relate to that character.
Thank you, TV Tropes. Without you, I would not have known this particular novella existed. I might have been better off not knowing. If you like unicorns, avoid it.
So, Bob works for The Laundry, which is the department that handles all supernatural phenomena in England. If it goes bump in the night, and it’s not your inebriated next door neighbour, then it’s their department. And he gets roped into looking into a problem that might involve unicorns. However, these aren’t beautiful, magical beings, but rather something different.
This was a really weird novella to read. I knew very little about The Laundry, so I had to take some guesses. Thankfully, everything is laid out pretty well in the story. The unicorns aren’t what you’d expect, and it takes a while for you to figure out what’s going on. It’s pretty grisly.
The detracting part of the novel for me, is the inclusion of HP Lovecraft. Stross includes letters written by Lovecraft, and they just drag. He has Lovecraft’s tone down pat though. Having read one Lovecraft story in the past, I got the same slogging feeling reading these.
Honestly? This isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s not poorly written. You can read it online for free, if you’re interested.
I read this because I’m taking a class in short story writing. It was an example piece. It’s a short story, so it didn’t take long to read. I read it, thinking I was following it well, and got to the end. The ending wasn’t what I expected, so I had to go back and read it again. It’s difficult to say much because it’s such a short story, and saying too much gives it all away.