Friday, October 31, 2008

Fiction: The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer

The Book of Lies (Grand Central Publishing) is an interesting, even arresting read. I can’t say I loved Brad Meltzer’s new novel, but I sure wasn’t bored. I read somewhere that Meltzer said this was the book he was born to write and that he was actually sort of afraid to do it ... though I can’t imagine why. I mean, yeah, the plot’s a stretch -- to say the very least -- but since when is that a reason not to write?

Follow me, if you can: In the early part of the last century, young Jerry Siegel, misfit Jewish kid, invents Superman, possibly our nation's most enduring super-icon. How did this come about? Meltzer posits that it was a direct result of the boy's father's sudden death. Was it a heart attack, as official reports have it? Or was it murder (which makes for a much better story)? And if it was murder, was it somehow linked to the old Cain and Able story from The Bible? You know, the one where God creates a mark of Cain after he murders his brother?

Add in a present-day frame about the novel's hero and his dad -- from whom he has been estranged since boyhood -- and you have the makings of a trifecta of parallelism. Siegel pere and fils. Frere et frere. And hero Cal and his dad. Nice, huh? Except it's a bit too nice, too neat, and too convenient. And perhaps even a bit too far-fetched. I'm more than willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good yarn, but I do expect a good-looking sweater at the end of the day, if you know what I mean. And unfortunately, The Book of Lies, while not exactly a bad-looking sweater, doesn't exactly fit in all the places it should.

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