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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Book Review: David Maine's Fallen

July 5, 2007

Iím in the middle of David Maineís Fallen. This is the retelling of Adam and Eve from the perspective of their sons Cain & Abel, and itís not very good. Iíve been plodding along for a few days now, but today, I donít know why, this line pulled me right out of the story:

Eve says to Abel: ďYouíre a good boy but a trifle naÔve.Ē

Gag.

Is it the word choice? I looked up trifle. Itís from approximately 1150, but the word the way Eve used it doesnít occur in print until the 1500s. Anachronistic language, thought I, thatís why it pulled me out. Only that idea doesnít really make sense since Adam and Eve likely spoke some proto-language, not English, so all of the words are anachronistic. Even the word naÔve, also in that sentence, dates in the 1600s.

So why does trifle stick out to me? Is it because the word seems so very British? Maybe itís because the dialogue is so incredibly stick-up-your-arse formal? (If you can really call it dialogue since quotation marks seem to be against Maineís religion.) The problem with the formality argument is that everything Eve says is formal beyond belief. Then again, Iím not entirely sure itís dialogue.

If I didnít have to finish this book since I selected it as one of my novels this term, I would have put it down ages ago. While there are points of interest Ė the little sister Lya who tells stories even when no one is listening to her is a realistic portrayal of a girl that age Ė itís a rehash of an old story with little of interest added to make it shine.

The structureís both interesting and annoying Ė the story is told backward from the moment of Cainís death to, presumably, his birth or thereabouts. The first few chapters were confusing, but I soon adapted to the structure. Only when Iíve put the book down for a day or two, thereís a moment of disorientation while I try to remember what I havenít learned yet Ė since the timeline is backwards.

The problem, Iím afraid, is that someone, and I wonít name any names, is trying to be Clever with a capital C. This book is clearly meant to be ďliteraryĒ Ė which is in part why I selected it (that and the naked babies wrestling on the cover somehow gave me this impression that this was to be a humorous read). Instead, this book has a Very Important Message, an agenda not-so-hidden behind the words, and if I had realized that the babies on the front were Very Serious Babies, I would never have given this book another glance.

Funny how deceptive covers can be, eh?

Thatís why I like popular fiction. A genre writer would have done this so much better. Someone in SF would have taken this tired storyline and vitalized it by populating the stories with archangel robots and a new planet as home. A fantasy writer would have added a dragon or two and moved it to the forest. A romance writer would have told it from the perspective of Cainís wife, who, sick and tired of her husbandís wanderiní ways, would have set him straight years ago. A young adult author would have told the story through jabbering Lyaís eyes who would have resolved the Cain & Abel conflict before it escalated to murder. Anything would be better than this.

Moira at 1:28 AM :: Comments (1) :: ę :: Ľ
Comments:

Please, not the Adam and Eve in space cliche! (Okay, the robot archangel would be pretty cool.)

Since we already know how the Cain & Abel story turned out, I'm not sure how much suspense there would be with the genre shifts you suggest, unless you're talking about a high-concept "alternate history" thing.

I think the language issue might have been resolved if you imagine that you're reading the whole thing in translation.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at July 6, 2007 12:37 AM
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