Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway and Dante's Inferno

This past weekend, I just finished reading a book called "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgeway, and immediately began comparing it to "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson. "Life After Life" was about reincarnation, true, but it also had something of a time-travel element to it, as the main character ended up at different places in history depending on the choices she made in each new life, which were informed by the mistakes she'd made in the previous life. Unfortunately, the protagonist learns nothing from her mistakes, and each life ends up being worse than the last, and readers are treated to grim scenarios in each chapter that remain pointless until the end, when we're left wondering why the author bothered to have the protagonist reborn at all. The plot was also turgid and the prose flat and boring.

So I was thrilled when "River of No Return" turned out to be nothing like "Life After Life," with lots of great characters who are fascinating and funny and full of vigor. Though the protagonist time travels 300 years into the future, he soon learns that the Guild that brought him forward isn't the only time-traveling organization in town, and he soon discovers that there's a dark underbelly to the organization, and that the war for the future is being waged with each group believing that they can find the talisman and stop the future from destroying itself. The plot is swift and sure as the river of time, and the prose is juicy and bouncy. My only problem with the novel was the ending, which read as if the author just got tired and decided to end the book mid-chapter. There are loads of unanswered questions and unsolved problems, so I can only assume that there is a sequel in the works. Here's a tidbit about the book from Shelf Awareness:

The River of No Return: A Novel by Bee Ridgeway (Dutton, $27.95,
9780525953869). "This romp in time has it all! There's a dashing hero,
several feisty heroines, some really nasty bad guys, plenty of mystery,
suspense, humor, and romance as Ridgeway navigates her eminently
plausible route along the River of Time filled with paradoxes and
switchbacks. A must for fans of Gabaldon's Outlander and Harkness' A
Discovery of Witches." --Annie Leonard, The Next Chapter, Knoxville,
 I love the idea of these booksellers putting together an Inferno-themed display in their bookstore!
"Fired up by the release of Dan Brown's Dante-inspired new thriller,
Inferno," the staff at BookPeople
Austin, Tex, "put together a massive display on our first floor honoring
all nine circles of Dante's hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger,
Heresy, Violence, Fraud & Treachery. From Fifty Shades of Grey (Lust) to
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Violence) to The Vanishers (Fraud,
Treachery, actually that one covers a few...) to Garfield Weighs His
Options (Gluttony) to Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut was an
atheist--Limbo!), you are invited to gleefully descend into the fiery
pits of damnation with us. Come on, you'll like it. It's warm down

Even though I don't own a bookstore or work in one, I find that I often have to restrain myself around people, too, to keep myself from giving them book recommendations, or begging them to drop that awful book that they're reading and pick up something better, with better prose or plot or by an author who can actually write.
Reaching Out to the 'World Beyond Our Front Doors'

"What does bother me is thinking about all the people out in the world
beyond our front doors who would thoroughly enjoy being here but still
haven't found us.... As a person who enjoys being sociable I have to
restrain myself constantly from approaching total strangers and saying,
'Hi! You don't know me but I've been watching you and I think you'd have
a wonderful time at the bookstore where I work.' The liabilities that
could result from this behavior clearly outweigh any imagined benefits.

"It's frustrating because I see potential Annie Bloom enthusiasts
everywhere; they're in supermarkets, restaurants, coffee shops and
sometimes they're in the car stopped beside mine at a red light. You
would not believe how hard it is for me NOT to open my car door and hand
the driver next to me a bookmark from the store. Yes, I carry bookmarks
around with me and sometimes I hand them out to people who already know
me such as bank tellers and baristas."

--Jeffrey Shaffer, a bookseller at Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, Ore., in a post on the PNBA's NW Book Lovers


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