Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Homes for Gnomes

If you’ve been reading my previous posts this week, you already know that since Monday evening I’ve managed to order a Kindle, get it delivered, download some free books, and get started…

I also mentioned that I had started reading a random ‘freebie’ that I happened to come across, by an author I’d never heard of (Homes for Gnomes by Stewart Thompson); but that I’d wait with a review until I’d finished it.

I’m glad I did – wait to give my opinion of it, I mean…

It was a strange book. I found myself quickly drawn into it, but at the same time sort of still pending half way through the book between amused and repelled.

It is quickly established that the story is set in contemporary Britain, but with the addition of the existence of a gnome population. They’re described as nasty little creatures, but yet with human-like traits.

To begin with the reader only sees them from one family’s point of view, who are annoyed by them. The story-telling then goes a bit back and forth in time between chapters. Learning that there are local authorities for dealing with gnomes, it dawns on the reader that the “problem” is a lot bigger than it seemed at first. This in itself may be clever story-building. There is also a lot of quite amusing use of political satire. The language is a bit crude sometimes but, well, tolerable. (It’s not a children’s book, though!)

It was about half-way into it, I think, that I began to wonder, though, if not the author had got as much out of control with the whole gnome-situation as the main characters in the book had… I should not go into details here, but let’s just say that not only does the situation escalate rather into the absurd, but this part of the story also just seems to go on and on and on… Anyway, last night I found myself speedreading faster and faster, skipping more and more details…

What intrigued me in the first place, was also what kept disturbing me throughout the book, and still disturbs me afterwards: Should the gnomes be seen as vermin, or as sort of primitive humans? (And indeed, that is a central question in this book.)

I suppose the end gives a “sort of” answer – but it still leaves me with a kind of bitter after-taste. (I may be too prone to look for parallels, though.)

My lasting impression is that the writing in this book is of uneven quality. There are undoubtedly elements of a good story and apt political satire… But in my opinion the story tips over, and the author himself seems to get tired of trying to sort out the details towards the end.

To illustrate with a quote from the book itself:

“Up until this point everything had gone like clockwork but like clockwork there is always a time when the energy in the spring runs out and everything stops.” 

I felt just the same with this book. The energy in the spring ran out before the book reached The End.

4 comments:

  1. not my kind of book, i don't care for science fiction like this and you already know that. thanks for the review so now i know not to download it. the goog thing is i got a free book, read 20 pages and deleted it...woohooo

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  2. Sandra, you probably wouldn't go browsing in Amazon's fantasy section in the first place (which is how I found it)... I like some fantasy books and not others, it's always a gamble - but in case of FREE e-books, not much to lose!

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  3. I thought this post would be about how to make cute garden homes for gnomes, and fairies, etc. Oh well, I won't be reading it, it sounds rather flawed.

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  4. Oh, dear... Sorry to disappoint you, Terra! The plot in the novel does include creating homes for gnomes, but in the shape of (gnome-sized) primitive housing estates - something that did not turn out a huge success!

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