Friday, February 12, 2016

October 32nd by Larry Rodness

It's October 31, and insurance agent Alexander Malefant is sent to picturesque Elora during its annual Halloween festival.  No sooner does Alexander arrive than he witnesses the near-drowning of a boy bobbing for apples.  Shortly after that, a group of children are attacked by crows.  Later that evening, all the children in the village suddenly disappear.  Soon, every person becomes a suspect as residents frantically try to discover what happened to the children.  Who or what is behind these disappearances, and can they get the children back before it's too late?  (taken from Amazon description)

When I first began reading, it was reminiscent of a Supernatural episode.  I found myself wondering if I was about to read the Wicker Man version of Supernatural, sans Sam and Dean.  While this book was nothing like Wicker Man or Supernatural, it was definitely enough of a hook to interest me right away and keep me reading.

Now, the book is written in first person, present tense.  That always irks me.  There's nothing wrong with it, it's just a personal preference.  I always feel like past tense means that the story has already taken place, and it sort of lends a bit more of a feeling of truth to it.  Present tense always makes me feel like the story is currently happening, and there's absolutely no reason that I should be watching it as it unfolds.  I feel like an intruder.  I also tend to prefer third person storytelling.  Instead of getting one person's perspective of what's going on, I feel like I'm getting a more rounded version of what actually happened.  The fact is that the world can't run the way I'd like it to.  So, I have to be a bit more understanding when it comes to this sort of thing.  HOWEVER!  By the time that I finished the book, I realize exactly why it was written in first person as well as in present tense.  There was absolutely no other way that Rodness could have told this story.  So, my personal preferences aside, it was definitely the right call for the author to make in this situation.

One of the most fascinating parts of this book for me was the main character.  I was struck immediately by the way that he manipulates everything in his brain to see how it relates to him personally.  I wouldn't say he's selfish, but definitely a bit of a narcissist.  For example, he sees a little boy drowning and carefully watches the townspeople and how they handle the situation.  Later, he finds that he has a meeting with the parents of the boy to sell life insurance.  At that stage, his mind goes into figuring out how to sell them insurance, while taking the incident into account.  He believes they will either be more receptive because of the scare, or possibly more distracted and less open to listening to him because of it.  This is just an example of how Alexander is.  Whenever something happens in the story, it's all about him.  Children are missing?  Oh...Well I might as well leave town because nobody will want to meet with me.  Now, he's not really a heartless character.  He just has trouble forcing himself to care.  You see some random instances where he sort of forgets to make everything about him and plunges in to help others, making him much more likable.

As for the story line, I had lots of theories as I was reading.  Once new characters are introduced and you really start to delve in to the townspeople and their traits, your brain starts working in overdrive.  Not only are children missing, but there's a much deeper mystery to solve and we're given just enough clues to keep us absolutely lost.  Even though I thought I had a pretty good handle on where the story was headed, I was blind-sided at the end.  I actually read the last page three times because I couldn't believe what I'd just read.  OK, to be completely honest...I screamed 'Wait!  What?'  and stormed off for a few minutes before coming back and reading it two more times.  The ending didn't change from the first time I read it, but at least it gave me a chance to reach the acceptance level.

I enjoyed the plot and was ecstatic that there were some great plot twists.  All of the characters were interesting, and most of them were likable.  The mystery was intriguing, but not too easy to figure out.  There's a great bit of subtle humor running throughout the book.  The storytelling is brisk, but there's enough detail given that you can still imagine the author's world and surroundings.  Also, if you pay close attention, you may even learn a few things about physics.

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