Book Review: The Narrator by Michael Cisco

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 1/5 stars

I can only imagine that this novel was an experiment.  Populate a world with both the mundane and the fantastical and blur them all together.  Add to it a special character called a “Narrator” whose job it is to follow along on the action and put into words all that he sees and does.  Make that Narrator very bad at his job.  Write a novel from that Narrator’s perspective.  What you are left with is a jumbled confusion.  While I was able to track the basics of the story, at very few points did I have a concrete picture of the how or the where or the why or the what of what people were doing.

Many of the descriptives in the book read like the author picked the most obscure words out of a thesaurus and sprinkled them throughout.  I have never used the dictionary more than while reading this book.  There are also many instances of the Narrator making simple grammatical errors and then correcting them in the next sentence.  Add to that the fact that this Narrator is describing a fantastical world with places and characters that require well thought out narratives in order to understand and you have one hell of a confusing jumble of a mess.  I mean, there’s never really even any explanation as to why there are these Narrators to begin with or why they’re entrusted with the telling of history.

I’m sure much of what I said above is exactly the point of the novel.  It’s an accurate description of what it must be like to go through war.  A jumbled mess of marching from place to place with randomly interspersed bouts of extreme violence.  Perhaps the Narrator lost his mind in the process and the result is the jumbled mess of his attempts to do his job.  Good reading material it is not, however.  If I had to describe the novel in a way that you might be able to understand, I’d say you start with the story of “Heart of Darkness”, add a hint of Lovecraftian horror, then sprinkle with a dash of “A Clockwork Orange” then mix with some “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, but that makes “The Narrator” sound much better of a read than it actually is.