Travels in Elysium by William Azuski
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Have you ever read a book by Umberto Eco? Then you’ll know that Mr. Eco is an extremely smart person – and he loves showing that to his readers. His books are well-researched, full of reference to historical facts, other works, etc. They might not all be nice to read and some are outright annoying but at least they’re well-written.
Now imagine Eco without proper research, without the smartness and without much talent for writing and you get: William Azuski
First of all, I don’t care about realism if a book is interesting. I don’t mind the author’s ideas about archaeology or volcanoes (even though they’re involuntarily comical in this book).
I do mind when an author writes more in metaphors than straight sentences, though. A few examples:
– “the fury of a candle left in a draught.”
Candles tend to die, left in a draught. I don’t really see much “fury” there.
A few sentences later, we read “The great day dawns, the sun struggling through spitting clouds.”
“Spitting clouds” – well, I suppose that’s rain but, really, useless, stupid pathos.
And if it’s not “Lucifer-red” it’s “rust-red to the author (if only he could decide how to spell it…):
– “rust-red cliffs”
– “rust red lava”
Enough of that, though, let’s take a look at the characters. Unfortunately, nothing good to see there either – all of them are caricatures of themselves, stereotypes we’ve seen a million times before. Just one example of an Oxford scholar “Dr. Adrian ‘Hadrian’ Hunt”:
“Dr Adrian Hunt, thinning hair, waddling gait, and that pink English skin that the sun refuses to bronze even in summer. He stood there like a plump, startled bird, peering out through round tortoiseshell glasses, probably still wondering at the back of his mind why he had deserted the gothic spires of Oxford for this godforsaken place.”
This stereotype has been exploited so often but rarely have I seen a description that blandly composed of everything better writers have only subtly alluded to. But careful allusions are not Azuski’s style. Bold statements are more like him and they repeat throughout the book.
The characters don’t really develop either – Pedrosa, our witless hero, constantly meanders between hating his boss, Huxley, and admiring him. In fact, he switches so quickly one gets dizzy. That’s not character development, though.
The others, unless they’re busy dying or quarreling with each other, don’t really ever change at all. They’re just somehow around and we’ll never really understand what for since they’re usually just staring into the “great beyond”.
Huxley says it to Pedrosa but it actually fits much better for us, the readers: “You wade through the swamp of your own fears, your own emotions, your likes and dislikes, your desires and aversions, your passion for this, your suspicion of that. I ask you again. Is that where you expect to find the truth?”
Better don’t expect any truths from this book, it’s just a collection of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo which ends with a whimper trying to be a bang and which would, if this book hadn’t already been hopelessly, utterly, irredeemably bad already, have ruined it completely.
Whatever you do with your life, don’t waste any minute of it reading this.
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