A while back I made a post after reading a couple of successive Ernest Hemingway stories. (Hemingway is a depressing lout!) In that post I commented on how I was disappointed after hearing for so many years about the quality of the man’s writing to find that he was such a fatalistic malcontent. While I couldn’t imagine it possible, I think I have found someone just as fatalistic and deplorable as the old lummox!
I recently read the story ‘Wool’ by Hugh Howey and am just finishing up book four of his ‘Bern Saga’ about Molly Fyde and I have to say, Hemingway may have a rival when it comes to unnecessary and gratuitous misery and fatalistic pap!
While I did like the story telling and found the premise interesting in Wool – interesting enough to get the follow-up books that continued the story in ‘Shift’ and ‘Dust’ and, the story itself did seem to include a number of the main characters continually meeting suffering, pain and loss. The original story starts up with killing off two central characters to the initial theme before you have even gone through a couple of chapters. I assumed that perhaps this was because it started initially as a short story that was added to and expanded more over time.
But as I am approaching the end of book 4 of the ‘Bern Saga’ I’m starting to see a growing pattern that I couldn’t help but start to compare to my experiences with ole Ernie. I don’t think there has been a single chapter of all four books that has not involved one of the main characters not going through some kind of morose and excessive suffering of one kind or another.
As an example (spoiler alert) I can mention the main premise of these four volumes: a quest by the main character, a young Molly Fyde, to find and re-unite with her parents that she thinks have been dead for more than 10 years. Before the end of book three, she is sent by an artificial ‘copy’ of her mother to kill her real mom and then Howey has the audacity, after the girl and her friends have run from authorities, been stabbed, tortured, jailed, accidentally killed their own friends, been beaten, mugged, raped, lost limbs and a slew of other excessive miseries … the prick goes and kills her father just one hour before the long sought reunion can take place!
There were some points in the book — more than one – more than a handful — where every single main character was either imprisoned, facing imminent death ripe with pain and suffering, exiled, bleeding or otherwise suffering all at the same time!
Just as with Hemingway, they both seem to be fatalistic malcontents who think that in order to tell a good story, you have to make everyone in them miserable as often as possible and interweave every possible misgiving you have about humanity or the universe or existence at every opportunity. Even the babblings of the ‘Bern-Seer’, a would-be pseudo-philosophical mystic who’s epigrams start many chapters, reflects a great deal of this.
In one portion she even doubts the existence of free will simply because a young man likes her and admits that he found himself with no choice when she asked him nicely to fix a leak behind her sink. While she (Howey) almost repairs it as she second guesses herself later, reflecting upon consequences as a possible determinant of behavior he still doesn’t quite make the mark but then overburdens it with doubts that it is simply what people tell themselves as a rationalistic lie to make their existence seem less futile. (the source of free will is in part from consequences, but results from the ability of those dealing with such consequences to make choices as to how to see them – to see reality for what it is and what it’s true potential can be, or to deny it and throw their hands up and claim to merely be a victim of it. Of course Cole had no choice but to help a woman he had come to like and value who asked him politely to help her out – he had chosen a LONG TIME AGO to behave that way!)
I was at first excited as there are so few good stories with strong female lead characters, least of all written by men. I enjoyed McCaffery and Rand for their strong females. But Howey just unnecessarily goes over the deep end with the anguish he weaves into his story telling. If that much pain and suffering is what he thinks it takes to tell a good yarn, I can’t help but imagine it reflects some of his own world view and cosmology. And in thinking such, I feel sorry for him and can’t help but wonder if he’ll become a depressing old drunk that pisses off his fans in some out of the way hole-in-the-wall bar just like Hemingway.