Generation Loss

GLbyEHAs you’ll probably notice from a few upcoming reviews I bought the humble book bundle recently. First on the list is Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand. I’ve been craving thrillers, but since I’m pretty new to genre I don’t know what to read (and I’d rather read something a little less popular than Gone Girl) so this is a good as place as any to start.

Generation Loss‘s protagonist is fairly unique. Cass Neary is a has-been photographer who had a small bit of success during the 70’s/80’s, but between her attitude and drug use she destroyed herself and her budding career. She’s careening through life in a drunken haze, but one day she gets an offer to do an interview with a legendary name in photography who has been a recluse for years. Cass reluctantly accepts and heads to a small town in Maine. There is much more beneath the surface of the sleepy town however.

The novel starts with a lot of backstory about Cass. It really fleshes her out, but it breaks the show not tell rule a bit. She’s not stereotypically attractive and is now on the upper end of middle age. She has a hard time giving a damn about anything any more- even her photography. She’s interesting and morally gray. The other characters also seem pretty unique and are characterized well. But… they don’t always make a lot of sense. For instance, Cass shows up unexpectedly at someone’s doorstep and for some reason they allow this stranger to stay with them. Small towns might be more relaxed about security, but it feels very strange. Cass has free run of the place even though the home owner doesn’t seem to like her and is supposedly paranoid. Characters are very accepting of Cass’s intrusions or simply never catch her. Even though she has some history with stealing I found her stealth and luck a little hard to believe at times.

My other big issue is that the book takes a long time to actually get interesting. Nearly halfway into the novel the mystery is unclear and it certainly isn’t thrilling. There are hints in the first half that something is going on, but it is difficult to distinguish what we’re actually trying to find out and even what the hell Cass is still doing in town. Her job falls through and yet she stays in town. She doesn’t have responsibilities elsewhere and is in no hurry to return home, but I couldn’t understand why she stayed and especially why the people she stays with allow her to stay there.

In the last thirty percent the plot speeds up. The mystery quickly unfolds and is solved. There are hints of magical realism, but they aren’t fleshed out enough to really matter. And the climax was a bit over the top. There is just so little suspense for a large part of the novel and the novelty of Cass’s character begins to wear off after a while. Instead of the pages turning faster as the story progresses, I found myself uninterested in reading on. This was an OK read, but it did not fulfill my craving for a good thriller.

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