Reading: Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson


I like the characters that Robert Charles Wilson creates–particularly the narrators. That’s a broad statement, considering I’ve only read Spin, but I’m in the middle of Julian Comstock and a scene really solidified some thoughts.

In Spin, the narrator, Tyler Dupree is a doctor. His connection to the events of the story are through friendships with the major players in the larger arc of the story. Those relationships give us a unique view of the events and the combination of tight character study and big ideas seem to be one of Wilson’s unique strengths. Tyler’s main impact on the story (other than chronicling it) is as a doctor. He keeps the other characters alive long enough for us to experience the entire story.

There’s nothing terribly unique about a narrator’s profession having a bearing on the story. Private investigators make great narrators for mysteries. Wizards and spies and vampire hunters all have genres wrapped firmly around them. But the mundane impact of seeing world changing events (and the associated pain and suffering) through the eyes of a general medical practitioner offered unexpected depth.

In Julian Comstock, the narrator, Adam Hazzard, is an aspiring writer. This is captured delightfully by the juxtaposition of his narration and the actual things that are written during the course of the narrative. When Hazzard composes a letter, the results come off as an aspiring writer that views the world with an endearing naivete. When he tells the reader about the events surrounding such composition the prose is significantly more refined. We get the impression very early in the book that Hazzard will grow as a writer just as his childhood friend grows into other roles.

The scene that started me off on this train of thought (which now seems to have gone nowhere exceptionally fruitful) involved a confrontation between Hazzard and the publisher of his war correspondence which had been plagiarized by an established reporter. Two things amused me greatly about this sequence. Hazzard is upset because his writing has been plagiarized, but he’s almost as much upset that the offending party screwed up his punctuation. When he’s eventually offered an elaborate sum for his next novel, the thing that really closes the deal for him is when they also agree to give him a typewriter. Putting justice and fame side by side with craft and practicality unquestionably establish Hazzard as someone suffering from the disease of “writer.”

I guess that is where I wanted this post to end up. I’ve now managed to have 3 morning coffee shop sessions this week. I like the rhythm it adds to my day, even if the past 2 days were devoted to reading Julian Comstock instead of actual writing.

~ by mentatjack on July 31, 2009.

2 Responses to “Reading: Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson”

  1. […] will always be small similarities between an author’s works. The most obvious with respect to Robert Charles Wilson is his uniquely character driven narrative. A much smaller […]

  2. […] Killcoin. I like the effect an explicit writer/narrator can offer a work. I enjoyed that in Julian Comstock and the meta-fictional concepts Steven Erikson discusses in this interview entice me to start […]

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