April 18, 2014

Review: Aatish Taseer’s “The Temple-Goers”

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This year we’re joining in with the Green Books Campaign Bloggers Reviews day, supporting books printed on environmental paper.

The last book review I wrote as a rave. This one won’t be, sadly.

Aatish Taseer’s “The Temple-Goers” scores a resounding “meh”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad book and there’s not much actually wrong with it, but it just doesn’t do it for me. Part of that is that I don’t connect with the main character, part of it is that it’s just so damned slloooowwwww.

And part of it is that the author’s not managed to step outside of what he knows so he can write about it. What do I mean by that? Well, people are always told to write about what they know – it means you can be authentic about it. I’m sure that’s what the author’s done. Unfortunately, it’s not a world we know anything about and, frankly, we need a few signposts.

The problem is that that we’ve not been invited along to join in. The descriptions of the social gatherings are alien to me. Fine. No problem with that – but there is a problem with the fact that even after I’ve read about this party or that party I’m still no wiser. I freely admit that describing an alien culture isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do: by definition ‘alien’ implies that there will be very little in common withe audience’s frame of reference…

Yet every (good) science fiction writer does it – and in much harder circumstances. Such authors literally create worlds and societies out of nothing. Here, we simply don’t get a credible world.

It all started off so hopefully, too. The prologue is full of action. Only it isn’t. It’s a description of a re-enactment of a murder – so two steps removed from the real thing. Sadly, that’s how the rest of the book feels, too… a couple of steps removed from the ‘real thing’.

I kept reading though – just interested enough to stick with it until it got going. I was sure it was going to get going. This chapter. This is the one. This is the chapter when it springs to life. No? Oh, well perhaps the next one then. Like a series of bad one-night stands, each one failing to provide either the ideal (a soul-mate) or a good short term substitute (a good fuck) the reader is consistently subjected to a series of ‘almosts’.

Like the bad sex described in the book itself, it fails to deliver.

Let me give you a very specific example of how this book makes me feel. I’m interested enough to try and write this review but when I come to save the document, I had to look at the front cover to remind myself what it was called. To be honest, if I can’t remember what the book is called, you know you’re not onto a winner.

Normally I’d write a longer review than this, but I can’t – there’s nothing much more to say. The lack of anything substantial means I’ve not got anything to get my teeth into. I can’t actually write a bad review because the book’s not bad, it’s just a bit, well, vapid. A bit boring.

No, boring isn’t quite right – it’s not that bad…. Pointless perhaps. It’s got no soul, no reason. I can’t find a reason to chuck it down onto my study floor, much less a reason to want to burn it, but neither can I find a reason to give the necessary time of my busy life to read it.

Simon

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