TOB 2010: Big Machine vs. The Year of the Flood

I am also cheering against The Year of the Flood. My antipathy towards the work is not based on my having suffered through it and found it wanting. Rather, The Mookse and the Gripes suffered through it and found it wanting. I always enjoy his reviews and he was very convincing. In fact, a part of me wants to preserve the view of the book I have based on this review. I don’t want to spoil the deliciously negative feelings I now have toward The Year of the Flood by reading the thing and, possibly, having my own, different emotional reaction.

So, The Year of the Flood loses to anything. Big Machine is not just anything though. It reminded me of [(in fixing the “off” typo, I realize these books did not really have any unholy offspring of which I could be reminded, but I leave the clumsy sentence anyway – ed)]the unholy offspring of Lark and Termite (which should have made it into the contest) and Chronic City (which should have made it into the contest). The writing is reminiscent of Lethem’s, though not quite as crisp or as ornate, but the tone is similar and LaValle turns some good sentences. Lark and Termite provides the supernatural twist and the turning of a great setup into a somewhat failed ending. But, the 2010 TOB seems to be full of good beginnings paired with subpar endings, so I cannot really hold that against Big Machine.

Big Machine advances in my bracket; I hope it does in the real thing because LaValle deserves the win.

Advertisements

7 Responses to TOB 2010: Big Machine vs. The Year of the Flood

  1. Amy says:

    I’m about 2/3 done with Big Machine and unless it collapses in a really spectacular way, I’d say the judges made the right call on this one. I thought the Atwood book was too gimmicky and self-clever by a long shot.

  2. Christy says:

    Sigh. I was afraid this was going to happen. I read Year of the Flood before the TOB list was announced, so it’s been a while and the details are fuzzy, but I liked it a lot.

    I was really looking forward to Big Machine, based on all the rave reviews I’d seen, and I loved the idea for the plot – all those addicts and down-and-out folks being summoned to a remote library to investigate the paranormal. So Big Machine started off strong for me, but about halfway through I thought it lost steam. Or maybe just went it some weird directions I didn’t care to follow. I skimmed through the second half, but never found anything to draw me back in to the story.

    My bracket is starting to look pretty ugly, but just filling it out has made watching the TOB much more fun. So thanks, Kerry, for hosting this competition!

  3. Christy says:

    Sigh. I was afraid this was going to happen. I read Year of the Flood before the TOB list was announced, so it’s been a while and the details are fuzzy, but I liked it a lot.

    I was really looking forward to Big Machine, based on all the rave reviews I’d seen, and I loved the idea for the plot – all those addicts and down-and-out folks being summoned to a remote library to investigate the paranormal. So Big Machine started off strong for me, but about halfway through I thought it lost steam. Or maybe just went in some weird directions I didn’t care to follow. I skimmed through the second half, but never found anything to draw me back in to the story.

    My bracket is starting to look pretty ugly, but just filling it out has made watching the TOB much more fun. So thanks, Kerry, for hosting this competition!

  4. Christy says:

    Eek, sorry about the double post, I’m on my first cup of caffeine this morning.

  5. While I am happy that Big Machine won, I can’t say the judge’s review prompts me to pick it up. Then again, since she got the name of the main character wrong, there is a credibility issue. Made worse by the fact that she missed the “flood” in the Atwood. I think I would expect a little closer read from a judge.

    And while I am whining, the commentators keep talking about how strong the field is. I have only read five, but I must say the first round hasn’t convinced me to pick up many others (perhaps Lowboy and the Tower). I think a number of better books didn’t make the list of 16 (to the two you mention, I’d say both Meloy and Mueenuddin although there seems to be an informal restriction of one short story collection).

    Of course, perhaps I am just being grumpy now that my entry is doomed — Russo doesn’t even make the top four of the rejected eight in the Zombie competition. Sigh.

    • Kerry says:

      Kevin,

      I have my doubts you would be much of a fan of Big Machine.

      I started to agree with you that the field is not particularly strong. I have read all or part of thirteen out of the sixteen (I’ve finished ten: two underway and the library wanted The Lacuna audio discs back which was fine with me). When I started going through them, I found I was happy to have read most of them. But the field easily could have been strengthened with any of those you have mentioned or I have mentioned. And, just from their longlist, they passed on Zoe Heller, Jonathan Lethem, and Colm Toibin. Replace almost any three of the other sixteen for those and the field gets stronger. Especially if you swap out Atwood, Stockett, Kingsolver, Mun, and/or Moore. Then, I think you would have a strong field.

      The Russo thing hurts.

  6. Kerry says:

    Amy,

    I don’t think Big Machine collapses in a spectacular way, just that it goes “in some weird directions”, as Christy aptly puts it, that some of us don’t find very compelling. Having only read reviews of The Year of the Flood, I definitely think the judges made the right call.

    My bracket is in trouble too. I am tied for the lead, but I can only get a max of half the points in Round 3 and the Semis. Lizzy, my co-leader at the moment, looks most favorably perched as it is still possible for her to score maximum points from Round 3 forward (all the big point rounds). Christy, I think you are looking second best. McCann, Mantel, and LaValle are all solid picks for Round 3. McCann and Mantel will be, very likely, in the Finals, which means you just need Lizzy to falter a bit these next two rounds.

    Anyway, I hope everyone is having at least some fun following the ToB.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: