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Smoke and Aces - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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October 7th, 2007


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03:16 pm - Smoke and Aces
jeeperstseepers, who is one of my favorite people in all the world, gave me a fantastic birthday present this year: I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It's a YA novel by the Australian author of The Book Thief, which I will be reading after I finish Anansi Boys (Gaiman/Zusak/Gaiman/Zusak!). I can't do much better than the blurb:
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?
Doesn't that sound awesome? I mean, what would you do if you mysteriously received an ace in the mail with three addresses on it and nothing else to go on? Would you be a keen enough observer of humanity to see what "message" you needed to send? How, specifically, you could help someone, make a difference in their lives? That's the task Ed is faced with.

The writing style reminded me of a less cynical Chuck Palahniuk, with a lot.

Of one-sentence.

Paragraphs.

Luckily, I'm a Palahniuk fan.

Ed is a great protagonist, and he's very real and honest. He doesn't hold anything back; he'll go ahead and describe how he's feeling even though he knows they're not the best feelings to be having. And you have to admire his commitment to helping these strangers, simply because a card in the mail suggested they could use some outside intervention.

And the beautiful and lovely thing about the book is that it's not always obvious what the best course of action is, or what the true problem is. Sometimes, it requires a large, grand gesture, and sometimes it's just this one small thing that can bring someone happiness. Sometimes you can change a person's life with just the slightest bit of effort. Sometimes it only takes asking them a question.

In addition to that all, you have some lively, interesting characters like Ed's friends, Marv and Audrey (Ritchie is a little less well drawn, and I didn't really pay much attention to him), and his Ma. The characterizations are very, well, real. These are just regular people, here. Not too much special about them, but they're still people. Which makes them easy to relate to.

Also, he has entire conversations with his dog where he makes up the Doorman's lines. It's very cute and really makes it seem like they have just as developed a relationship as he does with anyone else. He knows his dog's looks and what they mean.

As Ed receives more aces, the mystery deepens, and the clues become more enigmatic, which makes it fun. The resolution, to me, really ties the entire book together and gives it meaning. The last line of the book is one of the best last lines ever. I said out loud, "Yes. Yes. Yes." It's that perfect.

Really, if there was ever a book that would literally change someone's life and make them a better person, it would be this one. Ed is an inspiration, a force of good in a world that could use it. Why don't we all go help people, aces in the mail or no? Wouldn't that be better for everyone? Doesn't everyone win? That's why everyone should read this book.
Current Mood: pleasedpleased
Current Music: Duran Duran - White Lines

(15 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:jeeperstseepers
Date:October 7th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you didn't hate the end.

And yes, the last line is one of the best last lines ever. Makes me sigh every time.

Why don't we all go help people, aces in the mail or no? Wouldn't that be better for everyone? Doesn't everyone win? That's why everyone should read this book.

This sounds like the end of a 5th Grader's book report. It makes me think of Cartman reading his The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe book report.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:October 7th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
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And then they find a magical...camel, which they have to eat to stay alive.
[User Picture]
From:cerulgalactus
Date:October 7th, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)
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I have now put this book on my order list at Dymocks (my bookstore of choice, since the library system here is lame), solely on your recommendation. Ooooh, the pressure.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:October 7th, 2007 11:06 pm (UTC)
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You love everything I love, Shane. Have I ever led you astray?
[User Picture]
From:cerulgalactus
Date:October 7th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
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And that, good sir, is why I didn't hesitate to add the book.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:amy37
Date:October 8th, 2007 05:32 am (UTC)
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You totally sold me, dude.

::scurries off to add book to endless List of Things to Read::
From:metabeta
Date:October 11th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
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I'm so into current young adult fiction right now. My two YA books that I just read that I recommend to you are "The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl" by Barry Lyga and "An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green.
[User Picture]
From:scornedsaint
Date:October 14th, 2007 12:42 am (UTC)
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Oh, I love I am the Messenger although I think The Book Thief would totally win a battle between the two because of the way Zusak was able to kill me dead with just two sentences halfway through.

(Hi! Occasional lurker of your lj, had to comment when I saw you mention Zusak.)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:October 15th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
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The Book Thief is waiting for me at the library!

Hi, lurker!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2007 08:11 pm (UTC)
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Psst. What two sentences?
[User Picture]
From:scornedsaint
Date:December 1st, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
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***A small announcement about Rudy Steiner*** He didn't deserve to die the way he did.

I may have thrown down the book, yelled several rude things about Markus Zusak, and then burst into tears when I read that.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2007 02:40 am (UTC)
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Awww.
[User Picture]
From:lynevere
Date:November 4th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
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Why don't we all go help people, aces in the mail or no? Wouldn't that be better for everyone?

Something that struck me: Beyond helping people (himself and others), Ed was also creating a community. By the end of the book, he had connections to all sorts of people he'd never know otherwise. I'd never just walk up to a random door and introduce myself, but that's probably why I only know two of my neighbors' names.
[User Picture]
From:maidofawesome
Date:August 29th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
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Yay! I don't remember reading this. But it was so good! And moving! I was on the train to Scotland, reading this, and I got all teary. It was embarrassing. But awesome, too.

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