Between it being just a pointless book and my general state of exhaustion from living under the tyrannical rule of a toddler, getting through this book has been a battle. The good news is this was the last book in the series and I‘m now free of Chesney Armstruther and his accidental war between heaven and hell. (And dinosaur people.) The bad news is that when I finished it I couldn’t quite believe it was over, and continued flipping pages through the author acknowledgements as if there was some literary equivalent of the Marvel post credits scene that would make it all worth it.
Realizing there wasn’t I had to ask, “That’s it?” And not in a good way. Not in a, “oh no, that’s all? I need twelve more books to give me a satisfying level of closure about all of these complete and well written characters I’ve grown to love as family, and satisfying storylines and character arcs we’ve all been through together.”
Nope. It was more of a, “that’s really how you’re going to wrap up this bullshit? By completely negating the last three books you dragged me through over the span of two pages and then having a picnic?”
The author spent more time explaining dinosaur people than he did writing a proper conclusion to this three book story, not to mention how misguided and insulting his attitude towards individuals with autism comes across. I lost count of how many times he reminded the reader that Chesney had been “cured” and now was “normal”. But that’s ok, since that was all changed in the blink of an eye at the very end of the book, along with every major point in the story until that moment, when Chesney was autistic again when it served a purpose.
So, pretty much the best thing about this series was the cover art.
I’ve really been trying to get through this book. It hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, Matthew Hughes, the author of “Hell to Pay”, really hasn’t been doing his readers any favors.
I accidentally selected the ebook edition on Goodreads when I started the third and thankfully final book in the “To Hell and Back” series, so Goodreads mistakenly thought that when I updated my progress to page 196, I was done with the book. I wish I was. I wish I still didn’t have to read another 140-something pages to close this series out.
Why couldn’t Goodreads be right?
Why am I reading about a dinosaur chasing Chesney, our hero, in slow motion? Or he’s super fast, so the dinosaur and everyone else just seems to be moving in slow motion. But don’t worry, in case you forget that fact, the author will remind you every third paragraph. Why am I reading about how Chesney accidentally broke his girlfriend’s ribs carrying her away from the dinosaur super fast. That’s not really important though, because a half-rate Christ figure who was written out of existence when God rewrote parts of the Bible healed her. His name is Simon, but that doesn’t matter since he’s been a more or less empty barrel of a character. It isn’t that you don’t like him, its that you don’t care one way or the other if he’s there. Also Chesney’s girlfriend is breaking up with him. While in the tree. Where they’re hiding from the dinosaur. Also there’s dinosaur people. Simon will probably become their king after they try to sacrifice Chesney and Melda to their dinosaur gods. Or something. I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t care.
So far, I can’t actually nail down what the plot is or where and to what end we’re supposed to be moving towards. The writing had been repetitive, with certain ideas being repeated over and over again without actually moving the story forward. The book feels like a 331 page run-on sentence constantly circling back to a previous idea because the author forgot he’d mentioned that already.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, “The Damned Busters”, even while I didn’t. But that feeling of just good enough, that optimism that what the book had going for it would make up for its faults, is wearing off, and I’m not sure there’s enough left to get me through those last hundred pages.
“Work the sentences, if you wish, so that they will mean something. Or so that they mean nothing. Whichever you prefer.”
The limited previews I saw for the Amazon adaptation are what pushed my interest in “the Man in the High Castle” to the reading point. Is the show any good? I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m intrigued. Nazis! Alternate history! Episodic storytelling! DJ Qualls! Ok, maybe not necessarily DJ Qualls, but the Nazis and alternate history piqued my interest. Having read a few other Philip K. Dick novels and handful of short stories, I wanted to see what he would do with the few pieces I knew about.
The only way to explain how I felt reading ‘High Castle’, and I hope this makes sense, is to say nothing actually happened, but no one bothered to tell me.
Similar to other examples of Philip K. Dick I’ve read, there isn’t what you would normally call “world building” going on in his books. It’s more like “world immersion,” as if you wake up to this new reality and although you have no idea what or who anything is, you assume that’s how it has always been. Like laughing along with everyone else even though you don’t get the joke, you don’t freak out and try to understand what’s happening around you in this new reality. Instead, you keep reacting and moving and speaking, picking up clues and understanding things as you go, hoping no one else figures out that you have no idea what you’re doing.
In that regard, I suppose Dick’s writing is as close to real life as one can get, just with slightly more advanced technology that you still don’t know how to work.
Sometimes this method works, such as in “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said,” where that almost literally is the plot. It works a little less so for “Time Out of Joint,” but generally extremely well for his short stories and in “A Scanner Darkly.” You learn the necessary facts of this new reality as you go. The important details are made clear because you need them to survive. You learn by doing, by living. It’s a ‘take only what you need to survive’ sort of writing style.
This style is great, and I’ve loved it in the past, and it’s why I enjoy Dick’s books.But here, with this reality and these characters, it left me constantly waiting. We never really moved forward. While the characters were steadily doing things and interacting with each other and proving they knew on another and were all connected, it never felt like they were ever moving about in the same reality. They kept doing but never moving. Acting but never affecting.
But here, with this reality and these characters, it left me constantly waiting. We never really moved forward. While the characters were always doing things and interacting with each other and proving they knew one another and were all connected, it never felt like they were actually moving about in the same reality. They kept doing but never moving. Acting but never affecting.
I kept turning the page. They kept going through the motions. And we all kept waiting to see where we were going and whether it was worth it.
But even as these characters met their ends and found explanations and tried to understand what they had learned from what they’d done, there didn’t seem to be much of a point to it. I was left holding a book that was more an unfinished thought then fully formed novel. I didn’t grow into understanding the reality so I didn’t care about the people in it, which was ok because the same could be said for any of the characters in it as well.
While this won’t turn me off reading more Philip K. Dick, or even deter me from checking out the tv show, this wouldn’t be the first, third or even fifth book by him I recommend. Not when he much better-written novels and stories to chose from that successfully pull off his immersion style of writing.