Top critical review
Wanted: One experienced editor...
on 26 June 2012
So... I saw Danny Wallace interviewed on breakfast TV, found him very entertaining, and liked the way he was talking about this, his first novel. Picked it up for a decent price, got it delivered pretty fast and sat down to read.
Then I started to realise that the old saying about 'everything that glitters' also applies to novels too. This one's kinda shiny but it's definitely not gold.
I mean, there's really nothing wrong with this tale. Except that it's in desperate need of a good editor going through it and pruning mercilessly. It's a great premise, but then spends way too long riffing on a theme of 'wannabe guy scared of settling down'; the background to his predicament is interestingly touched on but never explored (would've made a more more 'nourishing' if slightly darker read); the 'road trip with similar social dysfunctionals' aspect is set up but never fully developed (leaving the supporting characters rather under-written); and the boy-stalks-girl riff is great but never really seals the deal.
On top of this the pacing is a bit slow, to the point where I was over halfway through and wondering if there was much more in store before I ran out of pages.
I guess if I were a teacher, my end of term report would say something like: Danny is a clever student with a lot of potential, but needs to buckle down and stop day dreaming about being a comedian. He is sometimes funny, but luckily for him there's more to him than just that, because he's not funny all the time.
I get the feeling that Danny Wallace is capable of much better writing than this, for there are some lovely set-ups; but this novel rather loses it's way, resorting to a little melodrama to pull it all to a conclusion, which is a real disappointment. Having said that, for a light summer holiday read, this a whole bunch more inventive than many stand-up comedians' first novels.
I'll certainly be checking out his second novel- but I'll probably grab a sneaky preview in Waterstone's before I commit another £7.99 to Danny Wallace's mortgage!