Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jacob's Ladder With Rungs Missing

Review: The Capital of Latecomers by Nina Nenova

Ever watch the cultish 1990 film Jacob's Ladder with Tim Robbins? Remember the queasy sensation that every scene in the movie was designed to disguise the truth? When I watched it again, it only confirmed the feeling that I was being conned.

I was barely a quarter of the way into this novel by Bulgarian Nina Nenova before I began having the creeping suspicion that I had been here before. Not to the oasis in the middle of the desert with its dozen millionaire inhabitants, but to the mental space of the too-clever writer whose descriptions are engineered to confuse and distract the reader.

I knew the author's background, so initially I excused the tortured storyline as a result of being translated from her native tongue. (And despite the translation from other-than-English, the language itself was stellar; no typos, good command of grammar, excellent choice of words.) Eventually, though, I became convinced that this was another Jacob's Ladder, and the dust being thrown was intended to obscure comprehension.

At the end, this was a confused mystery/suspense thriller with a lot of mystical confetti and pseudo-physics tossed into the mix. Before I had reached the midpoint, I recognized the con game in process. I no longer cared who-dunnit. In fact, I didn't care which characters lived or died. Poisoned by maguffins, I gave up without regret, thumbed forward to the reveal and the expected post-climactic twist.

I am very glad I got this as a Kindle First freebie. I would have been mortified to have paid to be a victim of this con.