(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)
The Boy Who Granted Dreams
By Luca Di Fulvio
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
So what's the biggest drawback to our current revolution in indie presses and self-publishing, when things like digital printing plants and places like Amazon now allow pretty much anyone on the planet to publish a manuscript as a finished, polished paperback whenever they want? Surprisingly, it's not the proliferation of terrible novels; as I've been learning more and more this fall, as I burn my way through this unending pile of basement-press books that were sent to me earlier this year while I was in computer coding bootcamp, the biggest drawback is actually the proliferation of "just okay" novels, ones that are not terrible enough that you can out-and-out dismiss them but certainly not good enough to bring even one new wrinkle or insight to their readers that they haven't already seen in a million novels previously. And here's the latest to add to the bonfire, an utterly by-the-books historical tale about young Italian immigrants in early-20th-century New York City, which its promotional material says is "perfect for fans of Gangs of New York" but should actually say, "If you've already seen Gangs of New York, there's not a single solitary reason to read this book as well." Perhaps it's because I'm exposed to so many more books like these than the typical pleasure reader out there, but it seems to me like in just the last year or two, the literary industry has started developing a troubling new problem that it's never had before; namely, this explosion in cheap consumer technology is producing a virtual flood of mediocre books that is literally drowning out the increasingly smaller proportion of titles out there that are actually worth your time. And I don't know as a full-time critic how to handle this, because like I said, I can't just dismiss such books and say that they're too terrible to bother reading, because they're not; they're just exactly good enough to justify their existence, kind of like how a piece of iceberg lettuce just barely technically counts enough as "food" to justify being grown. I'll keep making my way through them; but I have to admit, for the first time since CCLaP opened eight years ago, I'm starting to rethink our policy of reviewing any and every book that someone takes the time to send us. A decade ago, it was still difficult enough to publish a paperback that typically a person would only go to the trouble for a title that's truly worth reading (or conversely, is so terrible that the experience becomes weirdly pleasurable in its own right); but in the age we live in now, where anyone can take a Microsoft Word document and deliver a slick bound book to my mailbox literally a week later, the level of barely worthwhile books we're receiving is starting to reach an intolerable level, a development that benefits neither you nor I.
Out of 10: 7.0