Northern Lights Books and Gifts out of Duluth, MN. On this blog, we're looking to discuss new books, literary events and other issues we face within the world of Indie Bookselling!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Compare and Contrast and Review
I just finished reading City of Thieves by David Benioff and I really enjoyed it. I found that I enjoyed it on many of the levels that I enjoyed The Road last year. I thought a quick compare/contrast might help bring it all into focus.
Both are similar in their settings: famished and bare, populated by the desperate. That City of Thieves is Stalingrad under siege and The Road is an apocalyptic future landscape seems to make little difference when characters are looting, hoarding, sharing what little they can and fleeing cannibals.
But, in City of Thieves the narrator is the younger of the pair. Rather than the sparse, bleak and haunting prose of McCarthy, Benioff has a character who quotes from literature, some delightful dialogue and, while not verbose in description, he is allows pieces of the landscapes to really come alive. This difference is continued in the names- a man and his boy : rich Russian names with splashes of German. While City of Thieves is, ultimately, a coming of age novel, The Road is a man looking back on all he's lost- wondering at the futility of continuing forward.
So: what's left to compare? That against the backdrop of what's worst about mankind, there are still relationships that endure and even flourish because of their strange circumstances. One needs to be somewhat optimistic to read that into McCarthy, but Benioff nurtures that impulse as much as he exposes us to the murder, malice and desperation.
OK, my notions of some deep connection between the titles may be a little more fleeting than they originally seemed. Here's what to love in City of Thieves: Benioff captures a lot of the experience - the good, the bad, ugly and unexpected. Some stellar dialogue. An interest in incorporating other literature (a device that can be tedious in other works, but Benioff makes integral). Engaging characters that keep the reader intent on what will happen next. I really recommend it to anyone who read The Road and anyone else who's looking for a very solid read this summer.