Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book 55 - Going Bovine

Just the other day a good friend said: Don't you hate it when you *want* to love a book but it just doesn't happen?

Yes, yes I do. And such is the case with Going Bovine.

Libba Bray may be one of the most talented writers I have ever read. From a craft perspective, she's tight, witty and brilliant with dialogue. The characters grabbed me right from the first chapter, especially Cameron, a high-school kid whose biggest worry is whether his sister's friend will ever sleep with him, or if his teachers will catch him smoking a joint in the boy's room.

Until he learns he has the human form of Mad Cow Disease and is dying.

Having worked communications in the agriculture industry for quite a few years, I worried a little about how the "mad cow" messaging would be delivered. Food safety is everyone's concern and once a myth is perpetuated, it's tough to dispel.

Not to worry - Bray glosses over the issue and gets to the heart of Cameron's struggle - figuring out what's real and what's just a symptom of him going...mad. (Clever, clever title.) Bray had me riveted right up until the diagnosis. I was so caught up in the brilliance of her style, I actually lost track of the story and couldn't figure out myself what was real or part of Cameron's mind playing tricks on him.

I do remember Dulcie, a punk angel who urges Cameron to take a journey to find Dr. X and ultimately a cure. And so the road trip begins...

And my interest faded... Cameron is joined by a couple of sidekicks - a short guy and a talking garden gnome - and I *know* there's some deeper messages I missed, but I kind of became bored with the whole "extraordinary adventure"thing. Maybe it's because I never read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which is often referenced when people talk about Going Bovine) or maybe I simply had too much else on my mind these past few weeks.

Since Karen and I started the 100 Books in 2010 challenge, I've almost always carried a novel in my purse. I kept forgetting Going Bovine at work, at home, somewhere out of reach...And I struggled through to the end. Unlike me.

It's sad, because as mentioned above, Bray is a brilliant writer and I desperately wanted to love this book. Maybe I'll give it another try in the New Year when life feels a little less hectic.

The Book in My Bag Today: Afraid, Jack Kilborne


  1. I can still respect an author who fails on the story but delivers in craft. The craft is the hardest part to get the hang of and the part us writers sit trying to perfect over and over again. So, oh well, story didn't grab you, but at least you came away from it with 'something' worthwhile, right? It wasn't a total waste of your time?

  2. Man! Did you read my review of A Great & Terrible Beauty? I love me some Jessica Bell, but I gotta disagree with my charming bleep on this one. I'm a story gal all the way. AGTB frustrated me. Thanks, Dawn~ :o) <3

  3. Bray spoke at SCBWI's Writer's Day last year. She was hilarious and totally engaging. But I'll admit, I haven't read her work, probably because I'm afraid I'll have the same reaction you did.

    I'm a teen commerical fiction lover. It's tough for me to depart from the genre.

  4. Hmmmm...
    Maybe I should read it. I LOVED Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-read the whole series. Not to mention I might really be able to get into it since it sounds like it would silence the inner critiquer.

  5. Libba Bray is a hoot. I loved her running around in NY in a cow costume to promote her book. I still need to pick up her books. =)

  6. Hmmm...and your earlier review made it sound so good! Alas..probably a book I will never read as I hate it when a book totally amazes you for the first 3 quarters and then does nothing to complete that last little bit of amazing.

  7. JESS and LTM - I agree with you both actually. I completely respect Libba Bray as an author and a master of craft, but understand now why agents say "writing alone" won't get you through the door. Huge potential, brilliant writing...I only finished the book because I hate not to.

    And LTM, I DID read your review...made me feel better to know I wasn't alone :0) <3

    SUZANNE - I have watched a couple of YouTube interviews and completely understand why people love her - her personality is radiant.

    DONNA - I'll bring it to next crit <3 (Pretty sure Karen won't want it next...)

    CAROLYN - I do hope you love them. Honestly, the writing is staggering, it's THAT good. I just didn't fully *get* the story.

    KAREN - I feel pretty confident you wouldn't *love* this book. Not a single shitkickers to be found...ha ha. Love you.

  8. The same feeling you had reading this book is the same feeling I get when I think about reading it. There's just some mental hurdle there...and now I probably will let it simmer on the back burner a while longer.

  9. Along the lines of the title, I've been Going Porcine this holiday season! :-) And yes, I know what you mean about wanting desperately to love a book, and just can't get your arms around it.

  10. I saw her speak at the SCBWI NY conference as well. She was hilarious. I couldn't put the book down when I was reading it and got caught up in the fantasy (I don't read a lot of fantasy and now understand its appeal). I found the book funny/tragic and thoughtful. Your take on it is interesting though.

  11. I like your review :D Here's mine if you don't mind:

    Thanks and have a nice day!