This review is just me giving myself permission to stop pretending I'm reading this. It's not a bad book, so far. The writing is snappy, especially at the very beginning, with some nail-biting chthulu-style hijinks and pulp weirdness. A box! Opens a door! To a house! That is a holodeck of space! and time! and imagination! and stuff! I enjoy this sort of thing generally...wait...here comes a digression.
So Mum and I are staying in a cabin on the edge of nowhere (read: the Canadian Border, American side) so we're beholden to whatever's on the teevee because the DVD collection at the front desk is frankly appalling, and I'm not even that discriminating when it comes to movies. So we watch the last 45 minutes of John Carpenter's "The Thing", sort of chatting about pulp movies, and when it started being okay to drop the f-bomb in action films, and when it stopped, and whatnot. I went into a big Carpenter phase as some point because that man was on fire there for a while in the 80s: The Thing, Escape from New York, They Live, Christine, Halloween*.
Anyway, what I love about Carpenter is the off-handed way he kicks you in the teeth. All this genre-stuff, all this pulp, done in this sort of gritty Ed Woodish way - one of things I remember about Halloween is how many shots have Carpenter's cigarette smoke floating past, just because, screw it, John doesn't put out his smoke while filming - but he's got this unerring way (at the time) of finding the soft spots of the American psyche and jumping on them with boots. "The Thing" is this massive panic about the sort of bifurcation in the American mind, how we are always and ever a nation divided, and it plays that division in this really gross, fun, claustrophobic way. Mum and I were speculating about how it would end, cause it's been a while for both of us, and we were really shocked when it just sort of ends. They blow up the compound and the infestation, but then the survivors are left sitting in the snow. Russell and that one guy just lie down after all the pyrotechnics and say huh, well, maybe we'll freeze to death tonight. Cue credits.
If you don't want to read the spoiler to the movie that isn't even the focus of this review: in sum, the denouement of "The Thing" doesn't go where I expected, because it's so downbeat and non-coda-ish. It's not a set-up for something else, or end-times exposition, or whatever. And while it's going, it's kicking your ass right and left. As much fun as each individual piece of this book is so far - and it's really fragmented - I'm just not getting my ass kicked. The chapters keep having moments that end with OMG The Box what does it meeeeaaaannnn????? I'm feeling fairly certain that I will not be happy with what it meeeeeaaaans, because a Magic McGuffin Box that leads to the Holodeck of All Space and Time should not mean but be.**
Seriously though, I'm not mad about this book or anything, and I'm a little convinced that had I approached this on a beach somewhere, looking for some snappy pulp, I would have enjoyed it. As it stands, it's the puddle horrible spring in the Midwest, and I'm looking for pulp with more teeth in it and less snap. I admit that I haven't finished, and I'm unlikely to - sorry - but halfway through I haven't run across any scenario in the Great Possibilities of All Space and Time*** that's gone for my kidneys. The best pulp makes you cup your nuts****; my gonads still feel pretty safe. This book has the form of good pulp, it just doesn't have the substance.
*The last one's a cheat; Halloween was late-70s. Fuck you, imdb, for screwing up my point.
**Apologies to Wordsworth, and poetry.
***Or whatever. DNF.