Sunday, January 1, 2023

Book Review: The Shards

Seventeen-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equaled only by his increasingly unsettling preoccupation with the Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them—and Bret in particular—with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence. The coincidences are uncanny, but they are also filtered through the imagination of a teenager whose gifts for constructing narrative from the filaments of his own life are about to make him one of the most explosive literary sensations of his generation. Can he trust his friends—or his own mind—to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, he spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between the Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.

The Shards will be released on January 17, 2023. Knopf Doubleday provided an early galley for review.

As with some of his other works, Bret Easton Ellis again sets his story in a fictionalized Los Angeles in 1981. This was where he grew up and a time when he was himself seventeen years old. Also, like earlier works, the story is full of detailed sexual exploits and graphic violence.

I had to smile when the book opens with a lyrical quote from one of my favorite songs from the 70's. I took that as a good omen. In fact, I very much enjoy all the music references that Ellis sprinkles in here. These were the bands and songs and albums of my coming of age, just as they were his.

The narrative structure is a very interesting one. Ellis has made himself a character in his own novel - a writer of the same age who has written the exact titles he has in real-life. Ellis' style is again in the very compound/complex sentences that I observed in his earliest work Less Than Zero; previously I attributed it to Clay's disjointed mental states, but I now realize this appears to be a go-to comfort-zone of Ellis' writing. It can lead to some very overly wordy passages though with a lot of repetition. I am also not overly fond of the narrator revealing facts to the reader well before the narrator character has learned them; it just ruins the surprise and mystery of things.

I am certain fans of Ellis' earlier works will be eager to dive into his newest novel. For the uninitiated, this might not be the best jumping on point though.

No comments: