Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review: The Ways of the World

The Ways of the World: A James Maxted Thriller
Robert Goddard (no, not that one)

I wonder what the editors at "Transworld Publishers, a division of the Random House Group," do with all their free time. They're clearly not spending it editing books. If they had been, The Ways of the World would have been about four pages long.

For starters, it's just plain badly written. There are enormous chunks of text telling us how the characters feel. There are random intrusions of dialog embedded in long descriptive paragraphs. The prose is juvenile ("Morahan reckoned he could guess. And he always backed his own guesses.") And there is a truly phenomenal amount of padding. Paragraphs, scenes, chapters, and characters could have been excised with no loss of anything save word count.

(At the end of one chapter, one character asks another: "What do you reckon that [chapter] accomplished?" Apparently the characters are more aware of the problem than the author.)

But the insurmountable problem is that it is considered good form for a thriller--this is one; I know, because it says so in the subtitle--to actually, at some point, thrill. Here The Ways of the World is completely at sea. The pacing is utterly glacial. Our nominal hero's function is to have people talk to him, which they do with monotonous regularity. Other than that, he:
  • Runs away once.
  • Gets shot once.
  • Gets hit over the head (by the police!).
  • Ends up manacled to his own bed.
From none of these situations does he extricate himself by his own abilities; he has to be rescued every time. Oh, and he has a plucky sidekick, whose sole contribution is to be given knockout drops. He gets rescued, too.

I could go on. The nominal plot, for example, manages to be simultaneously confusing (who the hell is working for whom, and why?), inconsequential (nothing in particular is at stake), and boring. Really, though, why bother? If you want padding, read the book.


  1. Did you read the whole book? When something is this bad, I just put it down. My time is too precious.

    1. I did. I should not have. In my defense, I spent most of the reading time on a train, and I didn't have another book handy.

    2. Aha, and you don't have an iPhone, I suppose. I'd have been surfing or listening to a podcast.

    3. My phone is not so much a smartphone as a special-needs phone.

      Also, I have to admit one thing. I read the last 40 or so pages mainly so that I could justify posting a nasty review. It's really quite therapeutic.