56 points, 3 stars
Thomas Abbey, the son of a famous actor, fell in love with a book and an author when he was young. He has spent his entire life worshipping this man who died years ago. Now, he is looking to write Marshall France’s biography. The only problem is, he has to get his daughter, Anna’s, approval first. What he finds when he gets to Galen, Missouri is not quite what he expected.
This is a cross between Stranger than Fiction and The Fault in Our Stars without the cancer, with some Pleasantville thrown in for good measure. It was an interesting concept, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been a different person.
This book took a while to start. The books is broken up into three parts. The first part of the book, 17%, was all setup, and they hadn’t even left to go to the town they spend most of the book in, yet. Most of it was Thomas talking about his father issues, the same father issues that come up all book again and again. Once they get to town, that is when the book feels like it starts, which isn’t until about 20% through. Then it starts to become a bit more interesting, as hints that “something isn’t quite right in Pleasantville” is happening.
That said, this is very light on the fantasy in The Land of Laughs. Until 40%, there was still only hints that not everything was right in Galen. Things didn’t get fully explained until nearly 70% of the book. Even when things are explained, it still isn’t very fantasy heavy. When things are explained, he goes into book writing mode. The little hints that are dropped do make it pretty interesting, though. It is like if Pleasantville was more strictly fantasy than it already is. That town is full on crazy when you’re looking at it without the knowledge to back up their craziness.
The whole point of The Land of Laughs is that Thomas is writing a biography on Marshall France. Only, he writes it. By hand. Not on a computer. This is why I don’t read old stuff. That is unfathomable to me. Can you imagine writing a whole book by hand? I sure can’t! I don’t care how much you’re in love with your weird artsy pens, Thomas, personal computers existed in 1980! I can get past the no cell phones thing, most of the time. But a life without a computer really isn’t worth living, now is it?
There is a lot of time in this book spent on Thomas’ cheating. He has the girl he maybe loves, Saxony, who helps him this entire way. He met her in the beginning and he shares all the same interests and desires as him. She helps him, but she is always just a side character, she barely drives the plot at all. Then there is the author’s daughter, Anna, who is basically his obsession in flesh he could actually love, instead of the author himself. He is attracted to her, and can’t say no to her. And then a solid portion of the plot is dedicated to this tryst and Saxony’s finding out, and her anger and his avoidance of the conflict.
Personally, I understand the ending to the book as much as I understand the book itself. I understood the actual events, but the meaning behind them was lost on me. I think you need a different set of life experiences than I had to enjoy this one. The meaning behind the actions in this book is just completely lost on me, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you where they lost me. Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town spoke to me, I understood the symbolism behind some of the things. This.. I just didn’t get. And, I’m okay with that. Not every book speaks to every reader.
I thought I would enjoy this book more than I did. I like the idea of a book being reality, otherwise I wouldn’t read what I read. I just couldn’t get into it as much as I had hoped. I need a harder fantasy series, I believe, and this was much more literary in nature.
Check this out if:
- you want a really surreal world
- you like Stranger Than Fiction or Pleasantville (probably not The Fault in Your Stars so much)
- you want a story that unfolds from the mundane to the magical slowly to pack a punch at the end
Don’t bother if:
- you need a harder fantasy story to keep you interested
- you despise cheating in any form
- not knowing things drives you insane