My Semi-Fictional Life #21 (A Review)

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the beginning of week three of this year-long blogging series. It’s been fun so far. I hope you’re enjoying yourselves. Today, I have a review for Victor LaValle’s Big Machine.

Victor LaValle is a terrific writer. He plays with emotions, can make you laugh in one paragraph and sad in the next, and then laugh again a few sentences later. The writing isn’t the issue I had with this book. It’s the voice. I read LaValle’s The Ecstatic months ago. While reading Big Machine, I noticed that both main characters, while different people, had the same voice. I’m starting to believe that LaValle only has the one voice: slightly-sarcastic, self-deprecating, relatable low life. He nails that voice, but I would have much rather read about a different kind of character.

What saves Big Machine is the wacky storyline. I had no idea where LaValle was going to take me after those first 100 pages. But, I must say, getting through those first 100 was a goddamn slog. I read the book from September 11 to October 21. It took me until October 18 to get past the first 100 pages. Over a month to read a fourth of the book. Not cool. I almost didn’t finish it because I was bored. But something told me to stay with it. In the end, I didn’t regret the journey, only the outset.

I dug the idea and execution of the Devils of the Marsh. They were creepy and imposing and I’d never seen anything like them. When I run into a new monster or entity that I dig, I usually want more of them. But, here, I found that LaValle used them just enough for my liking. Another thing I’ll mention is the inclusion of both a supernatural and human villain. This is horror 101, but a lot of horror authors ignore it. Your horror would be so much better, fellow scribes, if you included a human element to your fiction. Stephen King is terrific at this: Henry Bowers in It, Jack Torrence in The Shining, and Margaret White in Carrie. Your human villain will be even more terrifying if you can make them relatable in some way. In this book, Soloman Clay is balanced well with the Devils of the Marsh, but he’s not the only villain. In fact, I don’t think there’s a good person in the entire book. Only lesser evils.

After the first 100 pages, the book jumps back and forth from Ricky Rice’s past to the present. I think I liked the flashbacks more than I did the present stuff. That is until the end. The bit on the pier was exceptionally well written. I saw every detail of that scene. What a way to close out the main storyline.

In summation: I would’ve liked this book far more without the first 100-page slog. The rehashed voice from The Ecstaticwas a letdown, as well, but I think that’s just LaValle’s voice in general. I’ll simply have to space out his reads. He’s definitely not someone I can read back to back. Recommended to fans of literary fiction that leans toward horror.

Final Judgment: “You have a collect call from, Hadababyitsaboy.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you tomorrow.


Pic of the Day