I'm a fan of zombie fiction, but Rise Again is not particularly well written. The first half is an absolute slog, with a meandering narrative full of non-events and plodding character busywork. I only kept listening out of obligation to the credit I spent.
The main character, for example, spends a lot of time ruminating about her sister or her opinions about things, but her thoughts are generally repetitive and dull. In fact, here's something I noticed while listening: Main character Danielle often "loses interest" in the topic at hand or the person she's talking to, right in the middle of the conversation. Once you notice it, you'll realize that Danielle loses interest in things over and over again throughout the entire book. The author seems to think that Danielle's lack of interest empowers her, but all it tells me is that if she's not interested in what's going on, then it's a fair bet that we aren't interested either.
Which brings me to my main gripe with the book. The author's writing style - and the story itself - lacks imagination. The story is serviceable, but I was never riveted. I never found myself hanging on the narrator's every word. The characters and locations and situations are not particularly creative or nuanced as written. The writing style gets the job done - and if you like zombies then there are plenty of zombies here - but that's about all Rise Again has going for it. Utilitarian writing and … zombies.
As for the main character, she doesn't have to be likable, but she should be at least be interesting. Danielle is rather dull. And she makes some ridiculous decisions in the story (at one point, with absolutely no proof, she tries to forcefully arrest a guy for murder in the middle of a zombie apocalypse). The author slants the narrative because he wants us to side with Danielle in these situations, but her actions are sometimes so silly that it's impossible. The result is an uneven main character that we never care much about.
The book comes in two downloadable parts. If you're going to listen, I would actually recommend skipping the first part entirely. You're not going to miss much, and though doing ths is not enough to save the story, the book only starts to realize its potential during the second half.
I got this book because of the large number of positive reviews - and because it's J.K. Rowling writing in dude drag - but I came away feeling a little let down. The writing style is great, the narration is great and the characters are great. But the story is ... not really great. I just didn't find it to be very exciting.
What Rowling - I mean, Robert Galbraith - does well is present the mystery to the reader like a puzzle to solve. There are clues scattered everywhere like puzzle pieces, and as the detective works through the story, he fits each puzzle piece into place one by one until the whole picture is finally revealed.
Unfortunately, the story was about as exciting to me as watching somebody work on a puzzle.
Here's the problem I had: The main character is never in any real danger until the very, very end of the book. There's no suspense, nothing that brings you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there. I noticed early on that the detective was not personally invested in the mystery, and as the story played out the lack of danger just got more and more glaring to me.
There is nothing at stake for the detective - no race against the clock, no looming threat of violence from the as-yet-unseen killer. Most of the story breaks down to either logistics or dialogue. The detective is either traveling someplace or he's talking to someone. That's virtually the entire book - just walking and talking. With too-few exceptions, most of The Cuckoo's Calling is the detective character asking the other characters questions.
Sure, there is plenty of nuance in the dialogue from a parade of varied and well-voiced characters. And the murder plot includes some interesting elements and clues to be uncovered.
But as a reader, I struggled to stay invested in the story because of the complete lack of danger, suspense, and so on. There is a mystery to solve, to be sure, but I just didn't think it was very exciting to watch the detective solve it.
To put it another way, if you like straight-up mysteries, then this book is probably right up your alley. But if you like your mystery served up with a side of suspense and thrills, keep on walkin'.
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