Least Compelling Book of All Time? (Aka a disagreement)

(Halfway Through The Manticore – Book 2 of The Deptford Trilogy)

Debby: Only once in my life have I quit on a book*. I wanted it to stay that way; I wanted to give every book the fair chance it deserves. But Davies is killing me. He is robbing me of all the joy of reading. I want characters, imaginative settings, a PLOT for goodness sakes. This book keeps bumbling on.

Tim: It’s got characters! Characters that keep me amused with their cleverness. Or maybe it’s their bumbling. They’re fun to watch. But I’ll grant you that there’s very little plot, in the proper sense of the word. 90% of the plot is flashback, looking at a story we kind of already know from a different perspective. It’s kind of like Ender’s Game versus Ender’s Shadow.

Debby: WHAT!!!! How DARE you make such a comparison!!! This is completely unlike that situation. Game versus Shadow are brilliant because they show how what is “real” is all based on perspective. It is two different stories, but identical settings.

Tim: And I argue that this one does as well. They’re both books driven by the specter of Boy Staunton, but explore how two different characters related to him. The characters both appear in both books. Very similar structurally, you just like one pair of books better.

Debby: Not a chance. Boy Staunton is certainly impactful in both Dunstan and David’s lives, but he doesn’t create the story. He is a rich, pompous ass who affected them, but I would say he is wholly irresponsible for the development of any part of the plot.

Tim: He’s no less active than Battle School, or Ender’s and Bean’s similar mental and physical capacities. Structurally, we’re looking at two characters tested against a common measure in both situations. Why should he need to create the story. He is an element of the story, one that both Dunstan and David employ heavily in their mythmaking regarding their own lives. And I think that’s why I’m enjoying this book. I like the mythic quality of both Fifth Business and The Manticore (thus far). Watching the layers of David get peeled back is compelling. The Manticore isn’t of the same quality as Ender’s Game or Ender’s Shadow, I agree, but I’m finding it an interesting, and often quite amusing read nonetheless.

Debby: Okay, look. I’m Greek. I know a thing or two about “myths”. I grew up reading the adventures of Heracles, or the tale of the Trojan War. {Tim: Is that pulling the Greek card or the geek card?} These are mythological tales that I can readily get into!! Where is the adventure here? Where is the desire to explain some basic question about nature or human desire? No. Boy Staunton did some nasty things, but he is not worthy of the title of mythical being.

Tim: He’s not the mythic being, though! And this is a myth of a very different sort. It’s not about gods and titans. It’s about the way we create the stories of our own lives and get so wrapped up in them that we almost can’t see straight. That’s what I think is going on with David. His prior mythic structure for the way he looks at his own life can’t hold up, and now he’s working with the psychologist, Dr. Von Haller, to try to construct a more viable one.

Debby: I can’t believe I’m even arguing about this. Our argument is more interesting than the book! I’d rather sit and read you talk about the book all day long than Davies’ nattering.

Tim: Well I’m glad you find me so compelling.

Debby: Oh, endlessly. Next book, please?

*That “one book” that I speak of is Lolita. I felt so unbelievably creepy for weeks after just the first few chapters. Nabokov is brilliant, but also one twisted fellow.

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