I was provided a copy of the book by the author in exchange for my fair review.
I have to admit, you can say a lot of things around these words, but when you tell me a book is “Tarantino-meets-Monty-Python,” you’re going to get my attention. I’m not a huge Tarantino fan, but his method of storytelling is well-known enough and I’ve always been intrigued by it. Monty Python, however, is one of my favorite comedy troupes, so I jumped at the chance to review the book.
However, I’ve been burned by book descriptions before. There’s always a bit of hesitation in the back of my mind.
What worried me more was the description of the plot, such as it is on the back on the book. Convoluted doesn’t begin to describe it. “Here are these two brothers! They have problems. Let me list all the things that might be the root of their problems.” I assumed that the writing of the book would clear up the travails of Dan and Mike Miller, the “talent” agent and the accountant respectively, who get themselves into all this mess.
The trouble is that the book doesn’t clear up anything. We’re introduced to so many characters, and given their place in the plot, and then we keep jumping back and forth between them as we try to keep track of the overarching plot. The problem with this is that we’re never really given a clear picture of anyone–and we’re expected to keep track of all of these people before we know them. Changing character by chapter isn’t a new or different tactic; we’ve seen it all over the place. (I’ll use Song of Ice and Fire as my comparison.) In ASoIaF, the plot lines are connected, but distantly. We don’t directly need to know what’s happening in King’s Landing to understand what’s happening on the Wall. They’ll all connect, but it’s not absolutely necessary to keep it all perfectly in your head. By the time you need to know it all, you’ll be familiar with it.
In this one, every character is intricately tied to the others, and they all directly connect to each other. With this many characters, you need more to tie these people to, and we don’t get them. It took me most of the book to finally keep who all the characters were straight. It shouldn’t take me half the book to keep the protagonists apart. Is this just me? Maybe.
There also aren’t really any sympathetic characters. Harvey and Omar are so dislikable they move beyond characters you love to hate. Jenny is completely incomprehensible (and by the end of the book, you know she’s remaining a bit of a mystery). Judd is a lunatic, Greenburg is…something else entirely. It’s not hard to know who to cheer for–the bad guys are VERY obvious about their badness–but actually wanting to cheer for the good guys is the problem.
The writing is passable though very rough at times (if I never see the word “supinated” again, it’ll be too soon), and sentences like “He was X, unless he was not-X.” belong in Writing 101 classes, not published books. Some of this I think is the tone of the humor Leder was trying to convey, and I get that. I see what he’s trying to do, but like the two comedians-of-sorts in the book, I think he ends up trying too hard and it just comes across as overbearingly fake. Python’s humor works, even in its darker skits, because it’s just that–skits. They don’t need to carry it over 377 pages. Harvey and Omar are funny once, maybe twice–after that, they’re annoying and repetitive.
Overall, I think that there’s a good idea trapped in here somewhere, but it became way too cluttered along the way to really be told well. And while I agree that a good story (or joke) often leaves a few unresolved ends, you need to tie up enough of the pertinent ones to give a satisfying ending. If you’re looking for something to kill some time with, maybe on a plane or something, it’s not a bad read. You just may want a scorecard to keep track of what’s happening.
Rating: *** (Worth a Look, bordering on **)