Saturday, June 4th, 2011

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For fiction, my reading tastes tend towards SF (with the random Victorian classic thrown in for good measure). I like spaceships and dragons and I make no apology for that. Given that, it’s not much surprise that most of the popular and well-recognized fiction out there passes me by. So when I came across A Visit from the Goon Squad in a tor.com article about "Genre in the Mainstream", I took note. And, thanks to the wonders of selection bias, after reading that article, I started seeing this book in lots of other places. I decided it was worth a read.

In a very real sense, reading the tor.com article before reading the book itself "primed" me to look at the book as proto-SF. So when the chronology shifts from chapter to chapter, I picture it as something like the excellent Deep Space 9 episode "The Visitor". Perhaps not the author’s intention, but I think it works.

Ultimately, though, I think I find SF satisfying because I like a good plot. I like goals and obstacles and heros. The more literary fiction tends to eschew the standard plot for characters. I don’t find this sort of thing bad, per se. It can make for an enjoyable read (as it did here!). But it doesn’t satisfy. It’s like filling up on the bread at a steak house. The bread can be tasty: but I leave wishing I’d had more.

That said, this is an excellent book; and I’d be a fool to say otherwise. I devoured it in just a few days. I enjoyed reading it. Now, looking back, I enjoy having read it. Since I bought the Kindle version, I regret not having it on my shelf now.

If nothing else, I think I can safely say that this is an excellent non-genre book to give to the SF-fan in your life. It’s probably even better if you’re not as heavily steeped in SF as I am. So, you know: that would make it good all around.

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