May 23, 2013

Book Review: "Awakening" by Ray N. Kuili

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Awakening, by Ray N. Kuili

By Ray N. Kuili
Think Books
Reviewed by Yair Ben-Zvi

A case of a high and great concept brought low and just about split even with a a poor execution. Ray N. Kuili has given us a novel that has the guts and bravado of a great work but is unfortunately hamstrung by a shaky hand and overwrought sense of expression.

First, to get the simple and obvious out of the way: this novel is in desperate need of an editor. Too many misspellings, grammatical errors, and just plain linguistic weirdness that can only come from an enthusiastic but unpolished first draft rushed to print. Second, the dialogue here is very weak. At times purely expository, and other times almost audibly creaking as Kuili attempts to bend and twist it to make it resemble humor or wit but in fact only sounds like what apparently Mark Hamill allegedly once said to George Lucas regarding his dialogue in one of the Star Wars movies, that 'People don't talk like this'.

Next, for a book that takes its time to develop its points as much as this one does, there's a surprising lack of tension. Why? Kuili makes the ill-informed decision to tell the readers outright who the violent and even sociopathic character is with no mystery and no attempt at misdirection. Granted this novel isn't billed as a mystery but it feels like you're reading a summation rather than a well thought out and well conceived story.

Which leads to one of the overarching problems of the novel, that despite its verbose-ness, it's incredibly dry and lazily vague. There are too many instances to count where detail would've been more than welcome. Settings are basic, barely described, characters are given little in the way of backstory and depth (the female characters fare far worse in this regard) and, on the contrary, seem to manifest specific traits only as the plot calls for them, and never before or after. You're very aware you're reading a novel with characters screwed into the system like computer chips for that purpose. Something tells me this would've worked much better as a screenplay.

However, if that were all to this novel than it wouldn't have fared as well as it did by me. Much like a Dostoyevsky novel and even a Saul Bellow novel, this plot is less linear plot or even in-depth character description, and more a novel of ideas, or in this case 'idea' singular. That idea discussed is the oft repeated one of 'power.' And after the purely abysmal first half, the book does begin to take shape, and Kuili finds something akin to a voice and even genuine confidence in the message he's trying to convey regarding the idea of power he's interpreting for the readers.

Unfortunately the ending is brought down by the MASSIVE exposition dump that basically gives the reader an entire play by play that, while explaining everything, does so in such a dry yet overstated manner that it sucks the mystery out of what's just happened and even serves to trivialize somewhat what's come before and what's to come after.

So overall, it's a half decent book that could have been significantly better had the author edited it substantially. The overall sense I get from the book, and especially the ending, is that of an overstuffed behemoth that would have been leagues more effective as a lean and devastating treatise or novella on power interpretations and struggles in the modern American managerial psyche.

Out of 10: 5.8

Read even more about Awakening: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Yair Ben-Zvi at 8:34 PM, May 23, 2013. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews | Yair Ben-Zvi |