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June 10, 2005

Book Review: Levi's Will

There are four basic levels of organization in any novel. There's the idea, which can generally be done in one sentence. There's the plot, which can generally be done in one sentence per chapter. There's what I call the continuity, which can be summed-up in one sentence per scene. And finally there's what I call the flow, which it the final fleshing out of the previous three parts. Oddly enough, best sellers don't need all four to be good or at least to sell. Alexander Dumas and Michael Crichton have in common that they come up with great ideas, weak plots, adequate continuity yet above average flow. John Grisham, on the other hand, has mediocre ideas, fairly good plots, adequate continuity but excellent flow. James Clavell had average ideas, but complex and intricate plots, adequate continuity and riveting flow.

I can't think of any best sellers that had bad continuity and flow, but I can painfully remember some easily forgettable books that did. While the continuity may need to only be adequate, without at least an above average flow, a book simply will not be worth the work it takes to read it. That flow needs to be like the current in a river. It should grab you and carry you along.

That's what I found in Levi's Will.

The author does flow, well, really well. Reading it was easy, natural, like floating down the river on a strong current. But more than that, he built a desire to go further, hints at future events that made you curious, so you wanted to read more.

I tried to schedule only about a half an hour to an hour a day to read it, because I have so many other things to do, but it was rare that I was able to keep it down to that. I was simply too fascinated by the book.

At roughly 143,000 words, it's one of those books that you wouldn't mind at all being longer, because that would simply mean more of it to enjoy. The author used a “device” I'd seen previously, that's purpose, presumably, was to distinguish between the “now” sections and the “then” sections. Personally I didn't think it was necessary and the “device” was simply to write the “now” section in present tense (as Nick Sparks did in The Notebook). It was mildly distracting, but certainly didn't take very much away from the overall quality of the novel.

Another thing that all novels have is the pattern of conflict and resolution. It's the essence of every story. Ideally you want enough conflict to make the resolution satisfying, but also a balance between the two. I felt that the resolution, while technically adequate (all the conflicts were either resolved or the reader is left with the assurance that they would be), the time spent of the resolution didn't balance the intensity of the conflict conveyed through the pages of the book. Maybe it was the realistic way the conflict of the protagonists was conveyed, that made it that way, but I was left wishing more had been done or said. But then again, that also speaks to the writer's ability to draw the reader in and make him or her a part of the story.

Another complaint is that the binding is too cheap. Paperback with wood pulp paper will not do for a book as good as this. I intend keeping it and more than likely re-reading it someday. I really wish it had been done in hard cover so it would age better.

If there's anything that would truly confirm that this is a book, well worth buying and reading, it would be that I fully intend to find other books by this author, and read them as well.

Posted by Danny Carlton at June 10, 2005 08:56 AM

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