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Monday, June 09, 2014

The String Diaries by Stephen Jones

The String Diaries  

A creepy book that would be a good choice for Carl's R.I.P. challenge, The String Diaries begins with a scene that hooks the reader with suspense.   

Hannah drives frantically with her severely wounded husband bleeding out in the passenger seat as her daughter sleeps in the back.  The tension is palpable.  Where is Hannah going and what has initiated this terrified flight in search of safety?

The book is a combination of thriller and paranormal elements told through different timelines and generations. The atmosphere throughout is menacing and sinister.  Jones creates a mythology about a Hungarian people with long lives and certain powers, including shape-shifting;  they are not evil and they function within the laws of the land, maintaining low profiles.  

When one of them turns bad, however, the vampire comparison arises.  Jakab.  Boy, is he a wicked and egocentric fellow!  He doesn't have fangs, but he kills without compunction, brutally and maliciously, if things don't go his way.  He is a bit childlike in his thinking, or maybe, just all id, concerned only with his own desires and why he is entitled to them.  He's also OCD and pursues the woman he wants through the generations creating chaos and destruction with all of the woman's descendants.  

The best character is not Hannah, whose encounters with Jakab begin and the novel, but Nicole.  Nicole's character has some wit and humor (which are pretty much absent in the rest of the novel) and her relationship with Charles begins with some amusing episodes.

Perhaps the main problem with the novel is the length, largely generated by repetition of events.  A pattern of action is repeated.  And repeated.  In detail.  It loses immediacy.  The characters of Hannah, Nate, Leah, and Seb remain surface elements that lack definition;  they are like semi-anonymous chess pieces who are necessary for the action, but who remain essentially indistinct.  (Nicole and Charles do have more of a personal presence.)

Another observation-- when an author can manage suspense the way Jones does, graphic violence is unnecessary.  Some of Jakab's messy temper tantrums would have been more effective cut short, avoiding the blood and gore.

Despite the length, I read this quickly, the problem is that it felt dragged out.  


NetGalley/Mulholland Books

read in Jan.; blog post scheduled for June

Horror/Supernatural.  1st published in 2013; new release in July, 2014.  Print version:  432 pages.

5 comments:

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like quite an intense read!

Melody said...

I agree with Wendy that this sounds like an intense read! And lots of action too!

jenclair said...

Wendy and Melody -- Jones does a great job of creating suspense. I wish there had been less gore and less repetition, though. Some of the tension is lost by dragging it out.

Stefanie said...

Oh, as I started reading your post I thought I wold be putting this on my list for RIP, but with all that gore, not so sure now.

jenclair said...

It really would make a good RIP book,but it would have been so much better if some of the violence had been left to the imagination.