Not exactly rage, but perhaps shaking one's fist a little

I just finished reading Dying Light by Donald Griswold and it's been a long time since I've been so conflicted about a book. Griswold's a fine writer whose prose is polished and he gives his characters more life than many novelists, particularly the characters on the periphery of the story. I think he's got a terrific novel in him, but Dying Light is not that novel.

At its core, Dying Light is a fairly conventional redemption story. I'm not giving anything away by saying this as it's perfectly obvious from the first few chapters that we're looking at a successful, unhappy asshole who's going to Learn An Important Lesson and come out a better man at the end. For my money, I think the change came too late in the story, and occurred too abruptly and completely. You know it's coming, but when it comes, it occurs almost literally overnight and it's such a complete change that the willing suspension of disbelief is severely tested. It's a serious pacing problem, and it makes the final third of the book feel rushed and unconvincing.

My larger issue may be one of taste, but it impaired my enjoyment of the book to the point where I nearly didn't finish reading it. Griswold does such a good job of painting the point of view character as the kind of jerk who is proud of all the things that make him unbearable that I found myself wishing something awful would happen to him (the character, not Griswold). Benjamin is utterly devoid of empathy (until he suddenly isn't) and living inside the mind of someone who doesn't give a shit about anyone else is painful regardless of how well-written the story is.  

Griswold does characters well. He manages to transform the Lisa character from a mere plot device into a well-rounded and interesting plot device. The world his characters move around in is real (it helps that I'm very familiar with many of the locations) and some of the side characters are a great deal of fun. There's a lot of good stuff in Dying Light, but the payoff isn't enough to make up for the fact that we spend a couple of hundred pages seeing the world through the eyes of Benjamin. I know guys like him, and man, I want to spend as little time with them and possible.


P.S. The image at the top of the screen doesn't really relate to the post, but I loved the caption so much I had to use it somewhere.