Ransom Riggs:  On Photos, Children and Peculiarity          8.5.2016

I'll wait until I'm done reading to post the whole 'review' but wanted to capture my thoughts partway through because, sometimes by the time I get to the end I have forgotten my initial emotional response.

Book the First Half

It is a book about a boy who had a peculiar grandfather, who may or may not have been a peculiar child, who tries to warn his grandson about the monsters in the dark.  In the beginning of the tale, it is not clear whether the grandfather is suffering from dementia, delusions from trauma having been the only family member to survive the Holocaust or whether, perhaps, just maybe, there are monsters lurking in the woods.

In unravelling the mystery of his grandfather's past as a way to reconcile himself to his grandfather's death - Jacob finds his way to a remote Welsh island where he explores the orphanage that took his grandfather in after his escape from the WWII and finds a little more mystery than anticipated.

I'm about 1/2 way through the novel so far and it's not a bad read but I am not WOWED.  This is a book where I read a chapter here, I read a chapter there but don't feel compelled to commit. It did not suck me straight in and then spit me back out the other end when it was all done.  I'm trying to figure out why.  

It's perfectly well written.  So far the story is not bad.  Nothing particularly oomph in terms of the dialogue but it's okay.  It's not my normal fare in terms of YA.  I tend to prefer dystopias but I'm not sure that would account for my mediocre reaction ... hmm ... 

I am a little confused at the moment on how the "science" of the world of the peculiars works. But that in itself would not be sufficient to explain my meh reaction. If I start to poke even a tiny bit at Pacific Rim or Loopers or Inception the "science" doesn't hold up and I LOVE those movies passionately.  

I'm also not sure that I really relate to Jacob as the protagonist. I am trying to figure out why. He's a kid who is actively engaged in figuring things out. His parents are both a bit on the annoying side so I completely get his response to them. What I'm not sure on, is my response to him. Maybe I'll figure that out in the latter half of the book.  We shall see. 

Book the Second Half

My reaction to the book didn't change much through the second half. It's an interesting concept, the photos are woven in with the text so there's a rich visual dimension to the reading experience, however, the science of the world continued to nag at me.  

As best as I could figure out the rules/science on which the story operates, the loops are accessed via a portal - in the case of the Welsh island, a burial cairn - which accesses the same place as the earthside/nowside of the portal, into an alternative version that loops a single day over and over.  It is part of what preserves the peculiars from aging - except the "science" shifted at the end where the loop failed to reset. That would mean that the alternative loop is not stuck on a single point in history but somehow the peculiars have intervened with the time in that dimension to keep re-setting it ... 

Maybe it will get articulated more clearly in the second book as they continue their voyage from the island back to the main coast of Wales to chase down the wights.

It's a debut novel as well - so I expect the writing will continue to get stronger and some of the other elements discussed above will hopefully get sorted out.  

An entertaining, even if not riveting, read.

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