2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 6 books toward her goal of 240 books.

Book Review: Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren

This one was…odd. Mostly in a good way, although also in a confusing one. Warren has crafted an atmospheric tale that feels a little like Shirley Jackson (a high compliment coming from me) crossed with Kurt Vonnegut (not-so high, as I tend to feel lost in a disorienting way when reading him) by way of eerie (as opposed to horrifying) Stephen King (high again). The result is an unusual amalgamation of creepy, intriguing, dark-knowing-smile-inducing madness that left me uncertain about what I was reading even as I was reading it. It was eerie and unsettling – and mostly in a good way.

I really liked the scene-setting beginning. It held dark promise and felt ominously full of whispers in the dark and things glimpsed out of the corners of your eyes. I had high hopes but wasn’t sure or what exactly – a feeling I often have with the indomitable Ms. Jackson and the incomparable Mr. King.

I love that feeling.

Then, much to my dismay, I lost the beat in the middle as the layers started piling on. The multiple characters were presented in teasing half-tones that felt like half-imagined thoughts – but not in a tone-setting way so much as in an overlapping, uncertain-where-things-should-go one. It felt like a hoarder’s imagining of a cast of characters – a collection of random bits that I suspected made sense to the collector but that I couldn’t make hide nor hair of myself.

I do not love that feeling.

Then the end came, and holy moly, I was right back in the thick of it. The fabulous, marvelous, open-but-not-quite end pulled me back into a series of reconsiderations and reinterpretations and left me wandering in the dark in the best possible way.

I REALLY love that feeling.

On the whole I wound up at 3.5 stars on this one. The beginning and very end were exceptional, but so much of the substance of the tale was in the middle bits and those felt as muddled as the limes at the bottom of the glass, post-mojito. Good stuff comes from those bits. They’re essential to the experience of the drink. It wouldn’t be the same without them – in fact, it wouldn’t exist without them. But you don’t quite know what to do with them when you’re done… That’s how I felt when I consider this one as a whole. It may be my tendency to want things to follow a more straightforward path – or if they meander, to form some semblance of a path in their conclusion – that is what I’m actually struggling with here. This is a more free-flowing story than I normally am drawn to, but that is also where a lot of its charm lay for me. (Hello, ending…)

I found my attention flagging a few times in the middle, and while I’m glad I stuck it out, if it had been much longer I don’t know if I would have been able to. If you like your narratives tidy, you may find yourself in my boat on this one – struggling a bit to carry on, fighting against the cross-cutting pulls – but if you can let that desire for tidiness go, there’s some fascinating stuff here…

Thanks to the grand folks at Meerkat Press for my obligation-free review copy.

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