Friday, June 17, 2022

Book Review: Or What You Will

Or What You Will 
by Jo Walton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m clearly a child of the 90s as all I could think when there is a segment about naming our narrator was Never Ending Story. Which made me giggle and took away any semblance of deep soul searching that might have been happening in this book. Added to that it’s a bit haphazard of a read. I’m sure English lit majors would be happy to tell me how brilliant it is; but for me it was okay. Or what It Will is the type of book I’m liable to forget about by next year. Which is unusual as I have really enjoyed Jo Walton's works in the past.

The biggest thing about this that should have been exciting, but ended up being confusing, was that our narrator is unreliable. Normally an unreliable narrator is the best! You have to read between the lines, get a gist for their bias and preferred outcome. While that is all here and present with our narrator; the reality is that they are not really the main character. The 'author' actually is. The narrator is telling the author's story; and then relating it to his existence. Now this is relevant as the narrator is the muse inside the authors head (more or less) and so does not exist with them. As the story goes on this idea of who exists where and when gets more convoluted. It is not helped by the idea that the narrator needs a name, or when the narrator starts to talk to us, the reader. I wish I like this more. It could be a super cool 'break the third wall' type of literature. But instead it just got a bit haphazard for me.

What I did enjoy however were Walton's tidbits and comments on writing good fiction; especially certain genres. If you are an aspiring writer you could get really great tidbits on what not to do from the discussions the narrator and the author have that we are privy to. If you look closely enough it's possible Walton has actually explained how best to avoid these many pitfalls. I was a bit distracted and less engaged at times (as our narrator was a bit verbose) and so likely missed some great tidbits. This lengthy narration is why I say this book is likely a literary major's dream. There is a lot that could (I think) be unpacked here. Especially about how characters in stories come to life, where ideas are generated from, and in general how people consume stories.

If you want something a bit wild, definitely weird, and certainly introspective on writing then Or What You Will might be for you. If you're looking for a lighter, fun read I would avoid this Walton story. But don't let it have you avoided her work entirely as Jo Walton has some wonderful pieces out there!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

This sounds interesting, but a little weird. Like something I might pick up if it fits a prompt on a reading challenge, but most likely won't actively search out!