Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Review - Insane & Out

Jason Carver is a newly promoted, newly divorced tax inspector, but he’s fed up and wants to make a change in his life. Jason has recently inherited a house in Orbaton and he wants to move away from London. However, he needs cash to pay for the refurbishment and afford to have a part-time job (so avoiding paying his ex-wife maintenance). Therefore, Jason bribes a tax evader, Albert Carlotti, to bank roll him.

But Jason has a new neighbor, Dennis Brodan, and they immediately get off on the wrong foot. Brodan is renting Jason’s garage and will not give it up. As Jason’s mind spins out of control, he fixates on Brodan as the source of his ill will and decides to do something about it.

I really don’t understand the purpose of this story. The premise, that Jason is going steadily mad and the underlying reason, aren’t clear at all. I sort of figured out what had ultimately sent him around the bend on the last page, but by then I just didn’t care because most of the outline leading up to it was unclear for a number of reasons.

First, Insane and Out completely failed to engage me. It’s not badly written, but some sentences are odd, i.e. they didn’t seem to fit with the prose, and others were just downright difficult to understand. To give an example of the former:

‘There was no-one else on the train, which hummed with a vile, sonorous drone, just like it was being pulled by a million meat flies.’

Okay Jason was having a dream, but it would probably fit better in the horror genre. And of the latter:

‘His hair was jet black and below his pallid, almost waxy complexion glowed an unhealthy tinge of hectic red.’

I’ve read that sentence perhaps 10 times and I still don’t get it. Maybe it’s me, but why make it difficult for the reader?

The characters are lifeless and add nothing to the narrative. They appear, make a few comments and then sidle off again. Sometimes a potential conflict is created by the character, but almost always isn’t followed through. For example Jason meets someone he calls Wolfman in the opening chapter. Wolfman wakes Jason up, helpfully meaning he doesn’t miss his train stop (the reasons why are explored for a few pages). Then he and the Wolfman walk to the same location. Wolfman invites Jason to join him in the park for a couple of beers…yes it is that dull.

This issue continues throughout the story. At one point Jason thinks Carlotti is going to kill him, potentially interesting, but then this possibility evaporates – instead Carlotti gives Jason a brand new car. The situation Jason gets himself into with Brodan is pointless, who cares that Brodan is renting the garage and he can get to his car faster than Jason? Not me. Yet the author spends many chapters investigating this. Yes, Jason might be going mad but the reason for the conflict? Far, far too weak and unbelievable to create tension in this context.

The dialogue is bland and laborious. It’s like sitting on a bus and being forced to listen in on a particularly boring conversation between two strangers who you hope to never meet again. Unfortunately, you’re treated to every word uttered.

Finally, there was absolutely no sense of place for me. Jason eventually lives in Orbaton, where’s that? In the ‘grim’ north of England where everyone’s ugly (where I happen to come from).

Overall, a very disappointing read that almost sent me mad in the process.
Rating? One Star
Would add this to my bookshelf? Categorically No
**Originally reviewed on Books & Pals blog.**

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