Top critical review
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on 5 April 2008
This is my first experience of John Courtney Grimwood, and it is a positive one. His characters are well rounded, with a particularly good ear for dialogue. He's also keen on cross-genre writing - a concept as a writer I'm in favour of. When mixing genres it's important to maintain the integrity of the story underneath: the mix is nothing without a compelling narrative. End Of The World Blues succeeds, but in spite of this.
In End of The World Blues (henceforth known as EOTWB) we have two parallel stories - one set in modern day Japan and the other in a future version of what appears to be a dying Earth. While the story following Kit, an English bar owner in Tokyo, soon to have a number of live changing events is a conventional thriller, the parallel narrative following Neku, a princess living within a 'sentient' castle in the future, jarrs in its execution.
Yet apart from Neko and her appearance in Kit's life in modern day Japan, these parallel narratives keep a firm distance apart. Barring the odd tweak you could remove the science fiction mix from EOTWB without being any the worse off. The question is: why is it there? My problem with the sci-fi element is not that it's unwelcome, but that less attention has been furnished to the future world than with more conventional real world. Grimwood doesn't give the reader the time to relate to characters in the future earth - each one is weak, unmemorable and for the most part unlikeable, whereupon in the real world each character has depth and and human, modern day interest - that Grimwood has been unable - or unwilling - to translate to the future portion of the novel.
Grimwood is an engaging writer, sharp and witty, yet is subtle enough with his characterisations that cliches are avoided and surprises are unexpected. He puts me in mind of a less romantic Michael Marshall Smith, thin on hyperbole but generous with allowing his characters space. I will look forward to reading more of his work.