InspectionInspection by Josh Malerman
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

fulfilling my 2019 goal to read (at least) one book each month that i bought in hardcover and put off reading long enough that it is now in paperback.


this. book. is. slow.

until it explodes.

i love how josh malerman just writes whatever he wants. his breakout debut, Bird Box, was a wonderful, original, propulsive piece of high-tension horror, and everything he’s written since has been…different. not bad, by any means—i am one of the people who freaking LOVED Unbury Carol, because it was such a weird-ass mash-up romp of a book, and i’ve read everything of his i could get my hands on (just recently discovering he wrote On This, the Day of the Pig—a very karen-sounding piece of animal-horror with a VERY limited print run that i am COVETING PLEASE AND THANK YOU).

this one i did not love. i don’t mind a slow build, i don’t mind being unmoored as a reader, not sure what is going on, i’m willing to be patient while an author constructs a story at their own pace, withholding details, leading the reader down a carefully constructed path until they decide it is time to pull back the curtain. i’m fine with proust taking three pages of digressive and clause-riddled sentences to describe a freaking flower or with speculative fiction that throws you in the deep end before gradually revealing what’s floating in the water with you. that metaphor got away from me a bit, but you take my meaning, yeah?

this remained obscure well past my comfort level, and it didn’t hold my interest—there’s only so long i can suspend my ‘WTF is this situation?’ before my mind starts to wander, and i become distracted by other things, such as the WEALTH of competitive halloween-themed programming on the food network.

the concept is strong, but the pacing was rough-going, and the focus so narrow and undefined for so long, studded with those arbitrarily capitalized words so popular in YA and dystopian lit: Effigy Meet, Mister Tree, D.A.D., The Corner, Parenthood, and—of course—Inspection. suspended in a bowl of word-soup, there was nothing to hook me apart from my desire to know more about the situation, which was a looong time coming, and the strain of such sustained anticipation was exhausting. the few times that the POV switched from j to another character were welcome reliefs, but while those characters had more depth and a richer, broader perspective on their experiences, being snapped back afterwards to j’s narrative voice and his sheltered existence and simmering curiosity only made me more frustrated. if k’s storyline had started even fifty pages sooner, it would have worked better for me, but until that shift occurred, it was a slow-going struggle to maintain interest in characters who are, necessarily, shallowly conceived and fairly indistinguishable.

i will say that the ending is spectacular, a series of events with enough action-packed payoff to almost make up for the drag of getting to it, but the overall experience was a middle-of-the-road three for me.

this all makes me sound like a lazy-reading wanker, i know, but in my defense, there is A LOT of competitive halloween-themed programming on the food network.

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