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Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

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Voice of Our Shadow - Jonathan Carroll

This was a fairly disappointing read for me, because I was very impressed with The Land Of Laughs. In a lot of ways, Voice Of Our Shadow mimics the format of that book; the first half to two-thirds of each book tries to pass itself of as "literary fiction," only introducing genre elements towards the end of the book. An unlikeable main character, a twist ending, and of course, an affair (as R. Scott Bakker said, the affair is to literary fiction as dragons are to fantasy). The main difference between that book and this one is that in Land all of these characteristics worked to make the story more interesting, whereas in Voice they were simply annoyances.


The unlikeable narrator thing is something I can deal with, usually. The thing is, even if the main character is intended to be imperfect, there's typically at least one aspect of their personality that is relatable, or at least interesting. Joe Lennox, I found, was neither relatable nor particularly interesting. He's a weak-willed person of fairly low moral fibre who writes for a living, although he fluked out the one time he wrote something good and hasn't been able to repeat his success. When India Tate is introduced into the story, you can tell right away that she and Joe are going to have an affair, and it really felt like Carroll had to try pretty hard to make it happen. Since it's such a central event in the story and the cause of (or at least the catalyst for) the fantasy/horror elements which occur later in the book, I would have liked for it to have been more believable.


The real kicker was the ending, and not in a good way. Without giving anything away, it felt even more contrived than the affair between Joe and India, and made considerably less sense. Whereas the twist ending to The Land Of Laughs was quirky but still satisfying, this one was bizarre, rushed and lacking in anything resembling a resolution.


Reading over this review, it makes it seem like I hated the story, but reading the book wasn't a fully negative experience. It's a testament to Carroll's skill that even with a main character who's a weenie, fairly clumsy dialogue, and some forced plotting, the bulk of the book was still engaging enough to keep me reading. A big part of the problem I had with this book was that I read The Land Of Laughs first, and that book set my expectations pretty high. Voice Of Our Shadow didn't live up to them.