Justin Cronin's The Passage. Like Dean Koontz, Cronin combines drama, science, government conspiracy theory, and fantasy with an evocative sense of character and place. His prose makes me, as a writer, drool. But... I put it down.
Several great authors --( and I don't use that term lightly. Cronin has skills. He's going to be huge.) -- have used their considerable gifts for creating believable characters and inserted me, the reader, into the mindsets of these characters with dexterous ease and a blinding sense of being there. So much so, that I want to scream: "Stop it!"
Because, truly, I don't want to see into the mind of a sexual deviant. I don't. Koontz has done it to me, King, among others, and now, Cronin. The writing is good. The story engaging and creative and deep. But I just don't want to go there. I don't want to wonder "just how did you dream up this scene? How did you do your research? How much of this character, dear author, is within you?"
URGH! I'm ashamed to admit it, but I must. I've wondered. I know it's not fair. It's just how it is. I'm sure Monsiurs Cronin, King, and Koontz (among others) are truly lovely men who walk their dogs and help old ladies across the street, and teach orphans in Uganda how to knit or something. But while I'm reading that deeply-entrenched-in-a-sicko-freak's-brain scene, I wonder, "But what if....?" Like I said. It's not fair to the author. And it makes me mad that I think that.
But I'm a mom, dangit. And every time I'm reminded that there ARE these sicko freaks out there in the world, it makes the mama-bear within me roar.
But I'm also writer, so I'm torn. I don't want to question the wonder of imagination -- of sheer writing talent -- just because a character makes me say "ew" and shiver, and check the back seat before I lock my car doors. And warn my daughters about staying 2o feet away from vans and to never, ever, help anyone look for their puppy. Because there is evil in the world. Evil. And they are innocent and I want to protect them!
I want to see good conquer evil and truth stomp injustice and.... Sigh. In the end, I guess I just want a fairytale. Where the villain is the villain. And the hero is the hero. Maybe my problem with reading such true-to-life sicko characters is that I don't want to find anything redeeming in someone whose behavior is so vile, but because these authors are so freaking good at what they do, I find a tiny part of myself feeling sympathy for Mr. Sicko. And that makes me uncomfortable.
It's an interesting commentary on the state of my own soul, isn't it? As a Believer in Christ, what do I really believe about the possibility of redemption for all people? About definitive sin as being without weight or measure, but equal under the shadow of the Cross? Hmm.... Is it a comment on the hypocrisy of my grace-based faith, or is it maybe that I'm just grossed out by some stuff? Stuff that should gross me out because it is the very definition of "sick and wrong."
I can't not recommend Justin Cronin's book. But I'll do so with the fair warning that "thar be some icky within." From what I've read, Cronin is a true artist. A creative wordsmith of the first order.
But I don't think I can finish that novel any time soon.
Am I missing out? Maybe. I'd love to see how the story is fleshed out... but I just don't want to see into the mind of a convicted sex offender, even if he is a minor character. And that is my choice. To take the book back to the library, unfinished.
Fiction is born of imagination, but fiction mirrors truth, as we say here. And sometimes it's just a little bit too real -- a little too clearly portrayed. And it creeps me out.
I hope the next novel from Justin Cronin doesn't go "there" into the mind and, lets face it, sympathy, of a sexual deviant. I'd love to see more from him -- and maybe, someday, in a different mindset, I'll pick up The Passage again, and skim over those portions I now find so creeptacularly icky.
Time will tell.