Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Flying to Nowhere: Mini-Review

The New York Times Book Review called John Fuller's Flying to Nowhere "As rich and exciting as The Name of the Rose, but deeper and more disturbing." I call it one weird little book. The blurb on the back makes it sound like a mystery. Set at an isolated monastery on an island off the coast of Wales, it follows Vane, an emissary from the bishop, who has been sent to investigate the disappearance of over twenty pilgrims who never returned from a visit to the island's miraculous well. The Abbot seems remarkably unconcerned that pilgrims have vanished. And, in fact, seems rather vague about whether any pilgrims ever arrived at all. He doesn't really bother himself with that, you know. He's too busy dissecting any cadavers that happen to come his way in an all-out search for the body's seat of the human soul. Has the Abbot been knocking off pilgrims in his quest for knowledge?

You got me.

Can't say we really get an answer to that. Or to much of anything. Let's just say that William of Baskerville (from Name of the Rose) the emissary Vane ain't. His method of investigation is hard to follow and his interviews with various members of the monastery are thoroughly unsatisfactory. Everyone from the Abbot to the novices either refuse to answer or give answers that make very little sense and he doesn't really follow up on that. As detective fiction of any sort, the book is a dismal failure and not even close to being in Eco's league. Fuller seems much more interested in the mystery of the human soul and investigating the boundaries between body and soul and between life and death than telling us what really happened to those pilgrims. Oh, we do get an answer of sorts--but not one that tells us who or what was responsible. The book is much more mystical than mysterious. But the questions it poses aren't asked in a satisfactory or compelling manner. There are no interesting or sympathetic characters to root for--the most sympathetic character is Vane's horse--and he doesn't last past the first few pages. That's not a spoiler...trust me.

Over all, a disappointing book and definitely not what I expected when I read the words "a vastly entertaining murder mystery" on the back.  --maybe.


6 comments:

Jacqueline Fiedler said...

Apparently the plot "flew nowhere." At least your review was entertaining! Thanks.

Bev Hankins said...

Very apt comment, Jacqueline! It definitely did "fly nowhere." :-)

fredamans said...

I really like the cover on this book! I like weird too, if done right. Sounds like this one wasn't though. Still, for some reason, I'm intrigued. Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Freda: This might be just the thing for you...The reviews are pretty divided on Goodreads either 1 or 2 stars OR 4 or 5. Guess you either really like it or you don't. I didn't.

Jacqueline Fiedler said...

Bev, that brings me to a comment I've been wanting to make. I've come to really trust your judgment on mysteries, because I've agreed with it often enough on titles I've read. We admire many of the same authors. Recently, I've been inclined to get rid of some books I haven't read, then I see one of your reviews and think, "Hold on, Bev gave that book 4 stars!" Back it goes on my TBR shelf! 😃

Bev Hankins said...

Jacqueline: thanks so much! I'm not sure if I should be happy or nervous that I have that much power over whether you keep books or not. ;-) Hope you wind up agreeing with me on those you decide to keep....