Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Uninvited-Liz Jensen

The Uninvited-Liz Jensen

the facts
satisfaction: up/side
pages: 302
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2013

A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger's Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider's fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh's Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy.

I have no idea what I expected from this book. All I knew at the beginning is that I was genuinely creeped out by it. I consider myself fairly difficult to creep out in terms of media consumption. I watch horror movies right before bedtime and still sleep like a baby. I think it was just the oddness in which the world was dissolving-the saboteurs, the murderous children, the clear and flowing prose, and perhaps combined with that cover art just did their work.

I’d say this is a novel focused on two planes. One is the apocalypal novel in which the world is simply dissolving and there’s nothing anyone could do about it. There just seemed like there was no way to understand the problem either. Jensen’s writing is understated and never becomes baroque or anything like that and perhaps that also makes it very creepy. It’s tight story telling though and I really appreciated that. In a way, I thought about Wyndham’s story-telling skills and I think it’s a pretty fair comparison. Understated writing, unsolvable problems that had to finish their fated tracks, and a good sense of how to present events lightly.

Perhaps Jensen was also aided by making the main character, Hesketh, someone with Asperger’s. I thought that was spectacularly handled because Hesketh is quite focused on turning his Asperger’s into a positive thing about him. He’s perpetually out of place and so he became an anthropologist. This makes sense to me.

The Uninvited was great while it was focused on Hesketh and his personal story as it fit into the global catastrophe but it began to undermine itself when it began to focus on the children and the whole thing descended into an environmentalist parable. For me it was an about-face in tone and feel that I got disenchanted with the book unfortunately.

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