It could and probably should be said that the book is work of genius, in the sense that doing something extremely impressive is usually extremely hard, but that doesn’t necessarily make for fully rewarding reading. Humor is in short supply. The characters’ voices all blend together into the same over-educated monotony. Descriptions, told in vocab-quiz bonus words, are accurate and interesting, but stop well short of beauty. And it’s hard to remember, as the weight of the book strains your arms, just who you’re supposed to care about enough to lug this thing around.
I was looking forward to Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), in part because I have very strong memories of the period in which the book is set. I grew up in New York City, and the summer of 1977 was epic, in many ways. Alas, 200 pages into the novel, I may not continue. The above excerpt from the Daily Beast review sums up my feelings perfectly.