This was actually a pretty interesting book. It’s been three years since I wrote it, so I figured I’d read it and see how it is after all this time.
I felt sympathetic to the main character, Oscar, even early on when he’s actually killing people and beating others into a coma for no good reason. Maybe that’s because in some ways I wrote him like myself, or like people I know. (I’m not saying I did write him like myself or people I know, none of us are murderers. I’m just saying maybe we have a certain murdery quality that he shares.)
Even though I wrote the book, it was sometimes hard for me to tell whether Oscar was right or not, whether his medication was effective, who the bad guys were. I feel pleased with that, because it means the reader is really getting into Oscar’s head and experiencing what it might be like for him with his worries and doubts.
There are some pretty funny scenes, which mostly seem to involve animals. The possum burglary discussion, which includes characters named after my actual mother and father, is a good one, and later on, when Mr. Hodge the hedgehog gets involved there are several good scenes with him. The action scene with the robot cameras was great to read, and I think would be pretty sweet in a movie version. There are odd, interesting characters, like the County Clerk, that I still think about sometimes, and I wish that I hadn’t let Jim’s brother, Jacob, die, because I would like to have explored their relationship more in the other two books.
The book gets better the farther you read into it, and that’s because at the beginning of the book I had no idea what I was writing about. That fits well with a paranoid schizophrenic character, because it flits around like somebody with a disordered mind might. But anyway, when I started writing it, I intended to write a dystopian book, because I really liked those (the book didn’t go that way, though it kind of does in the next one), and that was literally my only idea, so I was casting about, stalling until I could think of what to write on the next page.
I have a sometimes meandering writing style, where I like to use words repetitively, use alliteration, avoid the topic at hand, and create long, German-style sentences where you’ve forgotten the point by the time you get to the period. I have fun with my writing, and I love playing with language, but sometimes I annoyed even myself with that. As far as I know, though, nobody else who’s read the book has said anything about that, so maybe it’s just me.
Since I wrote it, I’ve been unhappy with the beginning of the book, and intended to re-write it at some point. It used to make me feel cringey inside just thinking about other people reading the first few pages. Now that I’ve read it with some distance between myself and the original writing, though, I find that actually it’s not bad, and maybe I’ll leave it untouched.
About halfway through the book, I can tell that I had a much more solid idea of what I was writing, and the book is much more coherent, although still with plenty of things happening that would confound the expectations of most readers.
The end of the book is abrubt, and a whole new concept is suddenly introduced in just the last twenty pages or so, and that’s another thing I used to feel a bit ashamed of and like I might change. After reading it, though, I no longer feel that way. Is it a little sudden, but it’s not jarring, and it leaves plenty open for the sequel, The Quest for Truth. It’s sudden because I hadn’t actually planned to end the book there. I had no ideas at all for how the book would end, and had no plans to write a sequel, but when I wrote “I put my arm around Penelope, and we drove on,” I immediately knew that was the end of the book.
For my first book, it’s great. I know my writing gets better the more I write, so i’m really looking forward to reading the next two books once it’s been at least three years for each of them. I’m especially looking forward to more of Mr. Hodge.
I’m pleased that this book seems different from many other books. Unfortunately, it’s different enough that I still don’t know what genre to classify it in.
It’s difficult to give this book a star rating, because I’m harsh with my own work. I think it’s a sturdy three, and I can see how other people might give it a four. I am still pleasantly surprised that anybody ever likes it enough to give it a five, but they do!