Another review. Yay.
Before I write this one I will just let you know that the author of Clown, Paul Montgomery, did a review of The Brightest Light, which can be found here. So you can make up your own mind as to whether I’m being nice to Paul because he was nice to me, or overly harsh because I don’t want to been seen “returning favours”, or if I’m sitting on the fence.
Clown is a big book about a man, named Clown, journeying through a world of myths and legends. It’s got a whole Odyssey thing (not that I’ve read the Odyssey, but, you know…) going on with the hero meeting strange people and even stranger creatures and visiting strange lands as he searches for something.
A lot of those strange things are really interesting and live in interesting places. Some of them are great characters. (I especially like the Perigold Araghum and would love to hear more about Dean Burton and the Raggedy Man.)
The story itself is filled with amazing ideas and there are also some passages where I was blown away by the writing (I didn’t keep notes, so I can’t quote any).
It has a great, sprawling feel to it, like the world it inhabits. The sections in the circuses are really good. Jack’s house is a nice interlude. The love story.
I felt that the story lacked a bit of focus. This might have been to do with the story Paul was trying to tell. We were given different stories from all sorts of people. The story pulled up on the side of the road while we went off on history lessons or back story or given stuff from all manner of points of view. A lot of it was really interesting, but I think I would rather it had been worked into the story more, instead of taking over as it occasionally did. It slows things down too much, I felt. I don’t mind a slow story, but it felt as if I was getting a dozen stories.
This lack of focus was in part due to a lack of narrative drive. The main character himself, at about 55% through the book, comments that he hasn’t really been doing anything in particular, just wondering around where events pushed him. This is in fact part of the story as well, but that knowledge, gained near the end of the book, doesn’t help. (Well, it didn’t make me feel any better about it). That’s why, up above, I said the main character was looking for something– because even at the end of the book we don’t really find out.
I mean, his journeys are explained but…
One thing that writing books and teachers talk a lot about is there being two parts of a story. (This may be more from film books, I’m not sure. Anyway…) Firstly, is what the character is looking for, or what they want, or what they are trying to achieve. This is what drives the story forward. ( eg, the millionaire is building an orphanage as a tax write off.) The second part of the story is what the character really wants, without actually realising it at the start. (The millionaire really building the orphanage because he felt that, though his parents were around, he was abandoned as a child as well. Ok, that one’s pretty obvious, but you get the picture.)
I think this type of layering could have worked well in Clown. (With a slight difference that I can’t really tell you about.)
As it is, Clown (the character) has no purpose. He could be looking for his parents, but nothing is ever really made of that. He could be looking for acceptance, but again… There are major mysteries left unsolved.
Paul also made some choices that seemed very strange at the time of reading (watching Clown meet a mythical creature from a third character’s perspective was very strange and missed some great opportunities). The choices were explained by the end of the book but that didn’t help with my reading at the time. Not sure how he might have done that differently.
So, maybe sitting on a 3 star fence. There’s a lot of great stuff in there– ideas, writing, characters. There’s just, maybe a bit too much of some of them. Making the changes would change the feel of Clown, which might not be a good thing– but we couldn’t know that until after the fact.
So, there you have it. Clown, by Paul Montgomery. 3 stars.