Friday 24 February 2012

The Man Who Rained by Ali Shaw

Ali Shaw's first novel, The Girl with Glass Feet, mixed magical, fairy-tale-esque materials with a surreal island and a story about melancholy, obsession, love, emotionally stunted men...

All in all, I enjoyed it, but started noticing that it was a very, very emo read.

The Man Who Rained amps up the emo sensibilities to eleven, squeezes in even more magic, moping, wallowing and melancholy, and, somehow, falls completely flat (for me). In fact, it was so disappointing, I started to wonder whether I might have been completely misguided about liking the Girl with Glass Feet.

The rest of the review covers about a third of the plot, so if that is too much, then consider this a SPOILER WARNING.

The premise: young woman, after the death of her father, dumps her boyfriend, decides to start a new life in Thunderstown (a remote place she has only ever happened to see from a plane, and where all the streets are in a spirally layout making it look like a weather system / vortex from above). Her father was "weather powered" - a man who only ever felt alive when watching weather, and whose time in prison crushed the life force and sanity out of him.

In Thunderstown, there are weird things going on: stray dogs are meek creatures, executed by the culler by means of breaking their necks in a hug. And there are strange charms dangling everywhere. People are a bit sinister, or gentle old souls, but rarely in between. She walks up one of the four mountains around the town, and a young, grey, hairless man strolls into view just as she's hidden away in a ruin, gets naked, and turns into a cloud. She's naturally fascinated by this cold, clammy, grey skinned person. The rest of the story is all about how weather materialises as living things around town, and how townspeople are scared of weather, trying to control it by having it killed...

Far-fetched doesn't come close. But I can live with far-fetched. It's inconsistencies in internal logic that I find difficult (this book has a few), and, ultimately, the fact that hard as it might try, the magic spark just wasn't there. I never felt very involved or engrossed, and all the wallowing and moping ended up being quite annoying. Some of the final plot twists made no sense at all, while other plot developments were so obvious in advance that I wanted to slap the characters for not seeing them coming...

Perhaps one needs to be in a certain mood or mindset to enjoy Ali Shaw novels. Or perhaps the first novel is simply miles better than the second. I don't know.

Rating: 2/5