Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is an unfinished novel as the author died suddenly of a heart attack while he was working on it. In addition to the unfinished text, the book also contains numerous notes and letters Fitzgerald had written outlining his plans for the novel, as well as a summary of what was not yet written based on those and on interviews with those who had known Fitzgerald. All of this was enjoyable to read. Fitzgerald’s prose and themes are great, and the peek inside the craftsman’s mind was a rare treat. The story of one person told by another, Fitzgerald is experimenting with a technique he had evidently picked up from Conrad. By letting his narrator imagine the actions and inner thoughts of the characters, he is looking for “the verisimilitude of a first person narrative, combined with a Godlike knowledge of all events that happen.” This might be something I’ll experiment with in my next novel. If I ever finish the one I'm working on now.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy

What do I like about Tom Clancy novels? The moral ambiguity of many of their characters and themes. What don’t I like about Tom Clancy novels? The heavy-handed good guy vs. bad guy way in which they all end. Popov is the most interesting character in this book, the ex-KGB spook who is recruited unknowingly by environmental terrorists and who both serves them and rips them off until he discovers their nefarious plot, and who then takes action into his own hands to save both himself and the planet. John Clark, the titular Rainbow Six, seems little more than a support player in this drama, but of course he has to be brought on stage at the end as the good guy who vanquishes the bad guys. Popov certainly isn’t a good guy, but he’s not a bad guy either, and that ultimately is what makes him the most interesting character in the book.