October 4, 2011

Review: The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten, by Harrison Geillor

Author: Harrison Geillor
Title: The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten
ISBN: 9781597802840
Publisher: Night Shade Books (2011)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A small town... a plucky heroin, a shiny vampire, and a hunkey Native American rival with a secret. But all is not as it seems in Lake Woebegotten. Let Harrison Geillor reveal what lies beneath the seemingly placid surface. You'll Laugh. We promise.
When Bonnie Grayduck relocates from sunny Santa Cruz California to the small town of Lake Woebegotten, Minnesota, to live with her estranged father, chief of the local two-man police department, she thinks she's leaving her troubles behind. But she soon becomes fascinated by another student - the brooding, beautiful Edwin Scullen, whose reclusive family hides a terrible secret. (Psst: they're actually vampires. But they're the kind who don't eat people, so it's okay.) Once Bonnie realizes what her new lover really is, she isn't afraid. Instead, she sees potential. Because while Bonnie seems to her friends and family to be an ordinary, slightly clumsy, easily-distracted girl, she's really manipulative, calculating, power hungry, and not above committing murder to get her way - or even just to amuse herself. This is a love story about monsters... but the vampire isn't the monster.
” (GoodRead’s blurb)

I have one major grip about this book. We will Laugh, or so the synopsis promises us. And I didn’t.

I don’t mean to say that I did not find the humor amusing, because everyone is allowed a different brand of joke, but that I could not find the punch line, so to speak. It was not so much a parody of Twilight, but a what-if.

What if Bella had been a psychopath (or sociopath, I grew confused at the differentiation after all the explanation done in the novel)?  What if she had loved Edward in whatever twisted, manipulative way she could – and what if that love were fuelled more from a desire to become the perfect predator and less from his personality?

Those are the turning points presented by The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten, and if I had not been led to expect something else altogether by the blurb, I’d have enjoyed it.

As it is, there were some good, original additions to the Twilight story: there’s another sociopath (or psychopath) in town, and Bonnie (Bella) has a turf war of sorts with him towards the end. It was interesting and... insightful. I could not bring myself to care much if she won or not, though, because I didn't like her all that much. However, her father was a collateral of this little turf war and that kind of pissed me off. Secondary character or not, he was the one I liked the most and the one I could relate with. Bummer.

Actually, the best part of the book are the secondaries. The town drunkard, the rivalling priests, the "League of Justice" a few villagers have organized to fight off vampires, demons and occassional UFO's... All of them had brief appearances and were not the focus of the story, but still they are the ones I remember after reading the book. 

Another well thought out character with a somewhat more relevant role was the Narrator, a weird dude who inserts bits and pieces into the protagonist’s diary from time to time in order to give the reader a better perspective of what’s going on. We don't get to know just why he’s omniscient and just what he might be up to until the very end, and I’ll admit that it was an “oh, yesssh” moment for me. Go, weird dude!

That said, the rest of the cast, the ones who come from Twilight, are either inconsequential (like Bonnie's classmates), hardly get any screen time and thur remain shallow (like the Scullen family) or present extreme traits from the characters they refer to without this fact doing much for comic relief (like Edwin’s naiveté). For me, it was not enough to become a parody. 

However, I guess the author does explain a bit about the inner workings of the brain of Bonnie, criminal mastermind. Perhaps too much. Really, I did not need to read about her sex life or masturbation habits.

I tend to comment on style and such, as I think that the how something reads is as important as the what it reads, but this time I will be silent on that account. It was an ARC and there were some mistakes. The upside of this is, now I am looking at editors under a whole new light – they are needed in ways I had never suspected before. There’s a reason why an unedited novel is called a manuscript and not a novel, go figure. Still, the tone was light and I expect the final product will be a comfortable piece, easy to read without particular awe-inspiring moments. 

In conclusion, I’d say that other than a few moments of lightness that did put a smile in my face (like Bonnie's  father mistaking Edwin’s name as Edward, when just the opposite happens in Twilight), the novel kept me turning pages without really gripping me. If you want to read Stephanie Meyer’s saga with an evil twist, this is an entertaining read. If you liked Twilight or are looking for a quick laugh, I’d not exactly recommend it.

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