52 Book Reviews, uh, review

A very nice review of The Troupe is up at 52 Book Reviews:

[…]Bennett has produced a novel that defies easy description, blending elements from genre and story into a rare hybrid that can appeal to all lovers of well crafted tales. When I recommend this book in the future, as I know I will, I will take an approach I save for only the most prized books on my shelves. I’ll simply ask; do you like to read?

Always very nice to hear.

Big ol slew of reviews

A bunch of nice reviews came in in the last few days, and I’ve only had time to post about them now. (Little boy had a fever, and a serious case of the two’s – stayed up from about midnight to 4 in the morning a few nights ago requesting “choo choo.” Mossad should hire him as a negotiation contractor.)

From Jared at Pornokistch:

Mr. Bennett author I admire very, very much and American Elsewhere is his best book yet. Probably by a country mile. That’s not to knock the others, but I think American Elsewhere is Mr. Bennett’s most complete work to date – combining the tension of Mr. Shivers and the grandeur of The Troupe. To quote my grandma, “this book is a corker”.

Justin Landon at Staffer’s Musings:

Bennett evokes notes of H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen King, but does so in a voice and style that I’ve come to recognize as distinctly his. I believe Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the best living writers of speculative horror, and I wouldn’t argue dropping the last three words. Consider me his biggest fan.

Paul Simpson at Sci-Fi Bulletin:

Robert Jackson Bennett isn’t the sort of writer to sit on his laurels, and churn out books that resemble their predecessors simply because they’ve struck a chord with readers. From the period piece of The Troupe he’s moved forward to contemporary times to give an enthralling homage to B-movies that draws you in with various mysteries, and proceeds to present answers that make perfect sense within the world that he has set up. As with all his books, you need to concentrate when you’re reading it: clues to what is happening are seeded throughout, and you want to go back once you’ve finished to pick up on the elements that weren’t as obvious at first glance.

Mike Reynolds at Bookgasm:

Bennett slyly grafts elements from David Lynch and Neil Gaiman, Shirley Jackson and H.P. Lovecraft, and nearly half of this brick of a novel carefully parcels out disruptions like the nightmare in Elm house. He is a master of the slow reveal, and scene after scene knocks the reader back on her heels, slips away from what we expect. There’s a real delight in how dark it gets behind the front doors in Bennett’s small town of Wink

John Clute, whom I admire, unfortunately found it too long and meandering, and not disciplined enough – which is a fair point. American Elsewhere is very much a novel of excess – but that’s more or less what I found that the book needed to be. I think there’s a style of book that fits into this category – glorious excess – and maybe in the future I’ll write a post about exactly what I think that is, and why such a style of book is worth reading.

Tor and SFFWorld review

Two new AMERICAN ELSEWHERE reviews, the first from Tor.com:

Robert Jackson Bennett is masterful when creating the strange atmosphere of Wink. This section of the novel is simply eerie, in much the same way Twin Peaks was eerie. It offers a recognizable slice of American small-town life, but it’s abundantly clear that there’s something really odd going on underneath the surface. Exactly what it is doesn’t become clear for a good long time, but until then you can simply enjoy the way Bennett slowly unveils hints and occasionally drops a bombshell of pure, unmitigated weirdness into the flow.

The second from SFFWorld.com:

Along with the characters, Bennett builds a great sense of place – the locations his characters inhabit become characters in and of themselves. Wink is a powerfully, magnetic place that is greater than the sum of its parts. Bennett’s powerful sense of place could also be considered world-building to throw a phrase more readily associated with Epic Fantasy.  Lastly, Bennett’s seamless melding of genre flavors into a unique stew of its own is as much on display here as it was in The Troupe – American Elsewhere is part anti-bildungsroman, part horror, with elements of science fiction tossed in for good measure.

This is nice.

Stay tuned from some grade-A, quality promotional material next week, folks! And by “grade-A, quality promotional material,” I mean “dumb shit I’m doing for no reason at all with my friends.”

The day after

I do not feel any different, even though the book is now out. The daily life beckons, and I have to answer it. I presume things are working away, out in the publishing world…

There’s a good interview with me here at the Civilian Reader blog, in which I talk about the story that, after about 5 or 6 years of sitting on a shelf, eventually became The Troupe:

I once had an idea for a story about a man who broke into abandoned homes, turned on a curious machine connected to a butterfly net, and used it to capture pieces of conversations the previous tenants had had out of thin air, and trap the pieces in glass jars. The conversations had still been echoing, you see, echoing on and on in these empty, abandoned places: you just needed a special machine to catch them. The man then pooled all these little fragments into one big pot, which made one huge story, a conversation about everything and everyone…

It’s funny – I thought up that story when my first attempt at a novel miserably, miserably failed. (As it should have.) Stories get compared to kids a lot, but they’re also like tumors – first they’re just a rogue lump, but then they grow and grow until they metastasize and take you over…

Stefan has also been kind enough to host a giveaway for The Troupe as well. Please see the bottom of the interview for more.

There’s also a review by Darren Guest up at Dark Central Station (and the man’s own blog here):

The Troupe is something of a departure from Bennett’s usual laconic style, and is pacier and more energetic for it.  And although there is still a good amount of darkness to fear, there’s a warmth to the story that we haven’t seen in his previous work.  That could be down to the teenaged George, or the sense of family within the troupe, but whatever it is, it shows that expectation is a fruitless exercise where Bennett is concerned.

This makes me happy to hear. I definitely don’t want to write the same book over and over again – though the very-different-books might be concerned with similar things.

And finally, though I’ve made a lot of acquaintances with interviewers and reviewers and other publishing aficionados in the past few weeks, some of my favorite reviews are from people who just happen to like my stuff, and want to tell people about it. Jess Schwartz has been following me on twitter since time out of mind, putting up with all the ridiculous shit I say over there, and she had this to say about The Troupe:

I finished reading Robert Jackson Bennett’s new book The Troupe on Sunday and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I read it in three or four days, which is pretty crazy for me because few things are able to hold my attention for any amount of time. This book was so good that on Sunday I sat in front of my computer for several hours and read the book the entire time. The blurb on the cover there is for his first book, Mr. Shivers, and I wouldn’t say that applies to The Troupe; I’m not sure how to describe the style other than “it is a Robert Jackson Bennett book.” And I’m not going to try to describe the book because I’m very bad at that, so here is the website for it: http://www.silenustroupe.com/

The book is beautiful, certain parts are actually terrifying, and other parts are devastating. I haven’t felt this way about a book in a long time. In his other books (and one short story that I adore) there is always a moment that really hits me or has some sort of…profound effect on me. I would say that in this case, the entire book is that moment.

A good start to the morning, most certainly.

Opening day, and Fat Tuesday

Well, it’s happened – THE TROUPE is now on shelves on both sides of the Atlantic, available for purchase.

I never quite know what to do in these situations. You just have to hope that the small snowballs you’ve kicked down the mountain have gathered and gathered and are now the size of elephants. (A rather destructive metaphor for what is, I hope, a creative effort.)

If you’ve been following this blog, you probably know that so far The Troupe is still getting a very positive reaction. (You can see some here.) I’m extremely grateful to all who supported it and continue to support it, and I’m thankful it’s getting the response that it is.

In six days I’ll be doing my first reading at BookPeople, one of the landmark independent bookstores in Texas, and on March 17th I’ll be doing the same at another – Murder by the Book. This is the first time I’ve ever done so many readings at such highly reputable places for what have so far been such large crowds. It’s a shock – it is as if some invisible center of balance somewhere has tipped and things are happening that certainly weren’t happening previously.

Continuing the upbeat reactions is the extremely thoughtful review over at Violin in a Void, in which Lauren Smith says:

The resulting novel is not just a tale about saving the world, but a well-rounded story vividly written characters, emotional depth and existential musings. In fact, I’d say the large-scale, world-in-peril aspect of the plot is in couched in a character-based drama. The main characters each have a strong, memorable presence, albeit one that’s weighted down by tragedy. It’s very easy for you to be invested in their emotional tangles and there quite a few heartfelt moments.

Which makes me happy. This was one of the Big Things I Wanted To Do with the novel.

*             *             *

Today is Fat Tuesday. I am not Catholic, but my family is from Louisiana, and my parents both spent a lot of their lives in New Orleans. I have a crock pot of red beans and rice cooking at home, and for lunch I believe I’ll be having a crawfish or oyster poboy.

Last year I took everyone out for drinks to celebrate the publication of The Company Man. Don’t know if I’ll do that this year. It feels a bit extraneous. The book is out, though it feels like it’s been out for some time. Things are happening, and I am happy.

Stuff! Hurrah for stuff!

I would hate to be close to a writer during a book release. It’d be like knowing someone with a severe bipolar disorder – one second up, one second down, and the next they’re incredibly anxious but they don’t know why. That shit I talked up about feeling all Zen? Yeah, that’s evaporated. THANKS, internet.

Anyways, it’s not like my life’s rough, because The Troupe got a glowing review from The Book Bag:

If books were music this would be a symphony performed at the proms; it’s round, and full, and big, and packed with ideas. The characters are alive, the horror deep and dark and moody and mean, the story tight and the twists appear out of the blackness like sudden bolts of lightning. The whole thing is an utter delight and highly recommended.

I think I use “glowing” too much. Maybe I should just say, “This review’s good, real good, mmmm hmmmm,” and pet a dog real hard on my porch.

There’s also an interview of mine with Justin Landon up at Staffer’s Musings, where he quite shrewdly asks the questions about whether or not The Troupe is an effort to jump on the circus bandwagon:

It’s quite funny – my editor later professed  –  after I finished The Troupe, of course – that he’d been a bit hesitant when I first described the book I planned to write. So I can honestly say that Orbit did not jump on the circus bandwagon, but had to be persuaded.

So that means this stupid shit is all my fault!

He is also doing a giveaway of 5 copies of The Troupe, so if you don’t want to have to buy a copy, which means you don’t like the idea of me or my child and wife eating and living full healthy lives (I forgive you), follow these simple instructions!

  • To enter the giveaway, e-mail me at staffersmusings@gmail.com, with the subject TROUPE PLZ, including a valid mailing address.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on February 23, 2012.
  • Winners will be chosen by random sorting entries, and then using a random number generator.
  • There will be five (5) winners who will received one (1) book each.