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.

Best of 2012 Collection

I’m damn happy to see that THE TROUPE has made a lot of end of year lists! I’ve been horribly lazy in responding to this, but I’ll go ahead and try to summarize them now:

The Qwillery: Book of the Year

The Troupe broke my rating system. I’ve stopped giving Qwills to books because once I read this exceptional novel I realized how inadequate my rating system was. [...] This is one of those novels that is so remarkably good that I have been afraid that nothing I say about it could possibly do the novel justice, but I will try.

Only the Best Sci Fi: #1 out of 10

Bennett not only writes about magic, but his writing itself is imbued with magic and a bit of humor and even a little darkness. To be mentioned in the same breathe as Neil Gaiman would be no stretch of the imagination.

The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review: Fantasy Novel of the Year

The Troupe is one of those novels that just sticks with you long after closing it. Think of it as a period American Gods through the lens of Steinbeck. Yes, that’s heavy praise, but this book deserves it.

Rob Bedford: Best Fantasy Novel of 2012.

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett was not only the best fantasy novel I read in 2012, it is my favorite novel of the year, full stop. It was a powerful novel and I’d even rank it as one of the ten best I’ve read in the last decade.

Audiobookaneers: Best Audiobook of a New Novel of 2012 (Dave’s pick).

The Troupe is one of those books that I didn’t want to end, was genuinely sad when it was over, and am very much looking forward to listening to again.

Book Chick City: #1 out of 10 (Melanie’s picks).

THE TROUPE is one of few truly unique books I have ever read. The plot was gritty, horrific, beautiful and poetic all at the same time. It isn’t an easy read but more than worth it.

Bookworm Blues: one of the top 10 of 2012.

I absolutely loved The Troupe and I devoured every word of it. The Troupe was a breath of fresh air. It charmed me from the first page.

Lynn’s Book Blog: #3 out of 10.

The Troupe is a brilliant read and one that I will definitely read again.  Robert Bennett is one of those unusual authors who seems to defy any sort of genre and who also manages to come up with a different style of book every time he sets pen to paper.  On the back of reading this I also read Mr Shivers and The Company Man which are also great reads.  I can’t wait for his next book to see where he will take us next.

Publishers Weekly: One of the best SF/Fantasy/Horror books of 2012.

A piano prodigy in early 20th-century middle America explores the dark side of performance and family in this eerie and love-ly homage to smalltime vaudevillians and the country’s heartland.

Tor.com – Reviewer’s picks of 2012


The Troupe has made the Tor.com list of reviewer’s picks of 2012!  SFF World reviewer Rob Bedford said of it:

On every level, this novel blew me away. Vaudeville, traveling artists, hints of Paradise Lost; this one had it all. Elements of the novel reminded me of the film Gangs of New York while other elements reminded me of King’s Dark Tower saga with other resonances to Neil Gaiman’s fiction.

You can read Rob’s original review here.


Darren Guest interview

I have my reading at Book People tonight at 7 PM. If you’re in the Austin area, swing by! And make sure to tell me the internet version of me sent you.

I did a fun interview with Darren Guest last week, which is now up here. We discussed many things, including the “genre ghetto”:

In Mr Shivers you use some powerful symbology in your examination of the ethos of death himself, and describe the novel as literary-ish.  In The Troupe there’s a certain Latin phrase that hints at a similar metaphysical exploration that could warrant another ‘ish’ – where do you stand in the old ‘Literary Vs Genre’ debate? 

RJB:  I don’t pay attention to the conflict – I presume it isn’t there, because it isn’t, not really. It’s a bunch of preconceived notions that we’re starting to shed the more porous our mediums get – TV bleeds into internet bleeds into writing, etc. I was once told, for example, that genre readers are some of the most aesthetically conservative readers out there – this is a statement I intend to disprove if it kills me. Or the genre readers.

Sometimes we do seem dreadfully intent on keeping these preconceived notions, though – and genre, though it likes to play the victim in railing against the mainstream and literary establishment, has as many self-inflicted strictures as the mainstream inflicts on it in turn.

A few people said that Mr. Shivers could not be a horror novel because it did not have enough violence in it, for example. Similarly, at one convention someone asked the panel what sort of symbolism they used – and they laughed and said they didn’t bother with that, they were genre writers, for God’s sakes.

That’s a terribly myopic way to go about looking at fiction, I think. Perhaps we must be dragged kicking and screaming into thoughtfulness.

The first of many steps

It’s just me and the little man for now, with the darling wife out of town on work, so yesterday we went for a walk in the gorgeous 70-something degrees, and when we came home we played with his walker.

His walker is a rather unwieldy plastic car with a big plastic handle on it – it’s shaped a bit like a lawnmower. It’s intended to train babies in walking, and last night he finally got the hang of it – though he likes to push it sideways, rather than from behind. It’s a lot like pushing a lawnmower from the side, with the wheels not engaging or rolling at all, and it looks like a LOT more work, but on our tile floor it’s fairly easy.

I cut up some orange slices and was feeding them to him, and he responded so positively I started working what I could get him to do for one.

For example – would he walk?

So far, the little man has been skating on the brink of walking for about a month or two. He can stand and walk with support very, very easily – and he’s displayed a frightening aptitude for climbing – but he doesn’t particularly like walking away from support. Though he does achieve a bit of a drunken stumble while bridging the gap in between two chairs or tables or whatever.

And last night, after some coercion from me, the cruelest daddy, he took 3-5 steps away from his walker, and stood, unsupported, while I fed him a piece of orange.

It was quite fun, and exhilarating in that ridiculous way all childhood achievements are – you think, I am yelling and clapping because this person took a single step and remained upright. But still! It’s something he’s never done before. The first of many.

We practiced for a bit, because daddy, being The Cruelest Daddy, wanted to get to 7-10 steps. But he began to protest, and we had to eat some green beans.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE for my son to continue walking – and to walk straight on into college – might I suggest possibly purchasing THE TROUPE?

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.

The penultimate day…

…callooh, callay.

An interview with me is up here at My Bookish Ways. It is a leeeetle bit old – the little boy is now quickly approaching the one year mark, and I finished Pym a while ago.

So, did you happy dance when you found out about the Philip K. Dick nom? Because I would have totally happy danced. And there may have been some squeeeing.
I believe I immediately asked my publicist if it would be okay if I said “holy shit” to her in an email. I think this to be a perfectly valid response.

For reference, Kristin’s review of The Troupe can be found here. She, too, has mysteriously found herself several copies of The Troupe, and is giving them away with these details:

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 5 copies of The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett to 5 winners
4. Must include a valid email address
5. You must enter on or before 2/27/12
6. Please see my Giveaway Policy.
7. Book kindly provided by the author and Orbit Books.

The book comes out tomorrow in the US. It’s weird, because it’s already been out in the UK. It feels, to me, like it’s been out for months. Books are not like movies – there is not one big curtain that can be raised at the exact right moment. A book release is disparate, disembodied – it happens in stages at vague times, executed by parties and organizations you’re totally unfamiliar with.

So far it’s gotten very positive reviews – people react to it every personally, which makes every reaction unique. Mostly, though, everyone has something to say about the end. This pleases me more than I can describe. The ending of this book is something that occupied me for months. I always knew how I wanted to do it, and I suspect – very faintly – that I have done it that way.

I hope you read it. It was fun to write, and things that are fun to write are – usually, but not always – fun to read.