Thursday, January 31, 2013

Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr.

Rating: 3.5/5

Hmmmm. You know, I get why people might really like this book. It's contemporary fiction with a dash of sci-fi, and it is well-written. It has a reassuring message, even though it's full of tragedy. Everything matters - people want to believe that. The thing is, it doesn't work for me; I'm not buying it. I'm too far gone in my existentialism or fatalism or nihilism or whatever the hell is wrong with me. I mean, at this point, the entire question of whether or not anything matters doesn't matter to me. Things just are. This book attempts to stir something in its audience, but misses the mark (mine, anyway). Currie's trying to sound like he knows the truth about meaning and wants to share his sage-like wisdom, but as a source, he's just not credible. He's pretty young. Maybe he's even a genius like his protagonist, but IQ doesn't equal wisdom. Maybe he's figured out his own truth, and thinks it should apply universally. However it stands, it's a decent attempt, but doesn't quite get there.

The story itself is told from the perspectives of several characters, most of which sound very much alike in voice. One notable exception is the disembodied omnipotent voice that speaks directly to Junior, calling him "you", and conveniently revealing details about everyone and everything that would be more difficult to show in a conventional narrative. We never find out why that voice is there, who it belongs to, and why it's taken an interest in this particular man in this particular multiverse. Even Junior doesn't seem to ask "why me?", he's too preoccupied with what to do (or not to do) with the information he's being given, and what it means about what matters.

There's a lot of exploration of father-son dynamics in this book, which I couldn't relate to. The female characters didn't feel as fully realized as the male ones. The narrative is mostly about the major and minor events of mundane living, and sometimes it got a little boring, occasionally it got implausible.

So these are my complaints. Despite all of that, it's not a bad book. It's often compelling, even when it veers into the fantastical. The relationships between characters were interesting, with good dialogue. I guess the main feeling I have is that this story feels like it's telling you how mind-blowing or heart-wrenching or philosophical it is, but my mind is not blown, nor my heart-wrenched. So maybe it's trying too hard or taking itself too seriously. Or maybe I just don't like how this book made me feel I was supposed to be learning an important life lesson from it. Then there's this line: "Irony is a luxury the doomed cannot afford." Which I totally disagree with. If you're going to hell in a hand-basket, you need all the laughs you can get.

- signed, an overly jaded reader

See my review of Ron Currie Jr.'s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

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