Sunday, June 26, 2016

Before the Fall - Overhyped?

Call me a cranky book reviewer but I've just got to let off some steam. I am getting so jaded by the ridiculous hyperbole being used by publicists to sell books these days. Authors, especially, should know better than to overhype their friends' literary efforts. You aren't doing your readers any favors when you do this because we will undoubtedly be disappointed. And really, does it sell that many more books? Don't worry, writers, we'll find you if you're good.

Product Details

Noah Hawley's latest novel, "Before the Fall," is a perfectly fine example of suspenseful summer reading but "a ravishing and riveting beauty of a part Dennis Lehane, one part Dostoevsky"? Michael Cunningham, you should be ashamed. If this kind of praise is lavished on a story so obviously written for a future film, what words are left for truly great literature?

Soon after take-off from Martha's Vineyard, a privately owned jet crashes into the ocean for no discernible reason. Of the eleven souls on board, two miraculously survive. Scott Burroughs, acquaintance of the plane owner's wife Maggie, and Maggie's four-year-old son, make it to shore, likely thanks to the fact that Burroughs was once a medal-winning competitive swimmer.

But Hawley's book isn't about a plane crash. It is a clever rant against the media shills who, with absolutely no basis in fact, promote their own theories and agendas to an uninformed public only too happy to believe the worst of their fellow man. If one TV channel paints Burroughs a hero, another wants to tear him down. An obnoxious Bill O'Reilly type is a composite of these TV personalities we love to hate.

As the NTSB and the Coast Guard look for the black box amidst the wreckage at the bottom of the sea, Burroughs hides out from the press, worried only about the traumatized little boy whom he rescued. The FBI investigation focuses on the business dealings of the men on the flight, wondering if sabotage was involved. And then there's a nasty hint about the body guard, a former Israeli soldier. I trust that many of you smart readers will suss out the truth before it's laid out for you.

Hawley's writing technique satisfies as he delves into the prior weeks in each victim's life, treating readers to a fuller sense of each character. But pulse-quickening suspense? It's just not there. Nor is it easy to dredge up much empathy for the victims who are portrayed as superficial and one-dimensional. If you want to read Hawley at his best, pick up a copy of "The Good Father," a devastating portrayal of a parent trying to come to grips with the motivation behind a son's evil act.

Have you read it yet? Am I being too hard? Let's have a discussion.


Paul Woodside said...

I agree the The Good Father is a much better book. But, I confess I did like After the Fall. Guess I'm a page-turner junky!

Sallyb said...

You know, I may have been too distracted to really enjoy it cause I read it when Don was still home and not sure when and how he'd get into surgery. Still, it wasn't one I sat up late to finish.

Jessica said...

I liked it - but didn't consider it a suspense/thriller as all the publicity declared it to be. I am also frustrated by the trend authors have lately of writing about characters that I truly despise. There are enough ugly people in the world, I don't want to waste my time reading about people I hate. I concur on "The Good Father" being a much more worthwhile read - and continually recommend it to patrons.

Lori said...

It was easy to remember the author has a background in TV, the book seems made for the screen. The multiple characters would be easier to follow on TV. I listened to the audio and there were some parts that seemed to drag on and on. If I had been reading in print I would have skimmed ahead. "The Good Father" was a much more compelling read.