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Extended Stay
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Extended Stay

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Recently added byRobertowiz, THCForPain, nmbeauchamp

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EXTENDED STAY by Bradley Cannon defies simple categorization. On the surface it's a "big idea" book, the sort most common to science fiction. What would happen if people and animals stopped dying--if they COULD NOT be killed? How would society react? What would be the upside? The downside? Those are the questions that EXTEND STAY wrestles with. However, the novel is not science fiction. In fact, it bears more similarities to creative nonfiction or novelistic journalism than anything else.

The style is decidedly journalistic in tone and in prose construction. The writing is clean, communicative, and well-edited. With echoes of Capote's In Cold Blood, Mischa Berlinski's Fieldwork, and Stephen Kings Needful Things and Under the Dome, the novel makes for an interested read, one that kept me engaged, curious where Cannon would take me next. The questions he asks are good ones and worthy of exploration, and though Cannon's answers didn't completely satisfy me (more on that to come), I applaud him for taking on such a difficult first novel. Better to overreach than under reach.

EXTENDED STAY is multi-layered and focuses on a large number of characters. This is the book's strength and its weakness. Another reviewer made a comparison to the great Stephen King; I understand that comparison, especially to King's novel NEEDFUL THINGS. However, what King does best is immerse the reader in a character or characters, compelling us to FEEL what they feel, forcing us to see through their eyes, experience their lives as if they were our own. EXTENDED STAY doesn't provide that level of engagement. The characters Cannon presents are interesting enough, but I didn't feel particularly connected to any of them. The book had such a large ensemble cast that there wasn't anyone to really root for, no hero or heroine to get behind. I wanted an emotional narrative thread to help me navigate the "big idea" of the book. It almost felt as if Cannon purposefully avoided narrowing the focus to maintain the tone of the book, but from a storytelling standpoint, it wasn't as effective as it could be.

That said, the narrative distance and journalistic touches worked wonderfully when showing the larger scale societal impacts caused by the cessation of death.

The plot is very well thought out, and develops nicely through the first half of the book. I was a bit disappointed that Cannon didn't do a little more showing of the practical ways that death became impossible. For example, an exterminator mentions that he can no longer kill pests and rats in particular. I wanted to SEE how that works, to be immersed in the total frustration (and black comedy) of rats that won't drown. I wanted to see more of the improbable "on camera" and ideally experienced through a character with specific knowledge that highlighted exactly how bizarre and strange something was. Another example involves a pair of skydivers who hit the ground after a 13,000 foot fall and survive. We're given no explanation for how that happened. To me, these would have been the most fascinating bits of the book and sadly, most of them are glossed over.

Cannon wisely references the film Final Destination (2000) in the book, paying his authorial respects to the movie that is some ways, his books parallels. I always appreciate it when authors give a nod to those who've told similar stories. Kudos to Cannon for doing so.

The final third of the book left me a little hungry if I'm honest. I wanted more details on just how society would react to the lack of death. The vignettes of a few evil characters didn't really capture the sort of wide-spread insanity such a realization might create. I believe Cannon intends to write a sequel, and it's this reviewers hope that he explores that topic more fully in his next book. I hope that he brings the lens a little closer, perhaps using a few less characters, so that the reader can feel more of the emotion associated with death.

It might seem as though I'm leaving an unfavorable review of EXTENDED STAY. Nothing could be further from the truth. I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others. It was a very ambitious novel, one requiring tremendous amounts of research and fine tuning. It impressed me with its scope and in terms of writing quality. The novel is quite good. This is an author to pay attention to--the basic writing skills and commitment to his story suggest he has a very bright future ahead of him.

4/5 Stars: An often brilliant first novel that compels despite a few imperfections ( )
  nmbeauchamp | May 26, 2015 |
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