When originality backfires

It took me much too long to get to Chuck Wendig’s latest book, The Book of Accidents, because Chuck is from Pennsylvania and so is Sarah J. Maas, who I had already read a book by this year, and therefore Pennsylvania was already filled up on my stupid little map. But I’d been looking forward to this a lot– Chuck is one of my favorites– and I finally got to it this week.

I didn’t like it as much as I feel like I should have, and I really hate it when that happens, because I never know how to translate that to a star rating, and then I get irritated with myself for caring about star ratings— I may just start rating every single book I read that doesn’t personally irritate me at five stars on Goodreads just to stop having to agonize about this– and I think I ended up just calling this one four stars for the hell of it.

Here is the deal with this book: I said to my wife during the first or second night of reading it that it really feels like Wendig, with his last couple of books, is quite deliberately trying to horn in on Stephen King’s turf, or at least the turf that King occupied when he was writing his most well-known and immortal books. Wanderers, which I liked quite a lot, got compared to The Stand all over the damn place, and with very good reason. And while this book didn’t map onto any specific King book as cleanly as Wanderers did, it still felt quite a lot like vintage, if updated, Stephen King.

And it also very much wants you to think it’s a haunted house book for, oh, the first third or so of its length. And it is not a haunted house book. It is so very much not a haunted house book, no, it is something else entirely. Like, I really don’t think you’re going to see a lot of what this book has for you coming.

I, uh, was really looking forward to a good haunted house book, though, and I got super excited about what looked like it was going to be a great haunted house book.

Which is why I’m not calling this a review, because I’m not sure if it’s the book’s fault that I wasn’t willing to go with it where it wanted to go. Maybe it is! I mean, it’s not like I picked up a Louis L’Amour book expecting to read a haunted house book. Like, there’s haunted house DNA all over this damn thing. Which sounds gross. You know what I mean. It’s not unfair to expect a creepy haunted house story from this book. In fact, I think Wendig is pretty obviously counting on it. And normally when something like this happens while I’m reading– you think the story is going to go BLAH, but instead it goes NYAH, it’s a compliment. Predictability is generally bad. Except, apparently, in this case, where I can’t claim that it ruined the book– it’s not like I regret reading it or anything, although I think even at my most charitable it’s not as strong as Wanderers. It’s just not what I wanted from it, and as a result I didn’t like it as much as I thought I was going to.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.