Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: "At Night We Walk In Circles" by Daniel Alarcon

The first 100 or so pages of Daniel Alarcon’s new novel At Night We Walk in Circles may be the best thing he has written (might be, in that I have not read his short story collection, War By Candlelight), more so than most of his first novel Lost City Radio, which, to be honest, I forget most of since I read it a full two years ago. It is interesting, unique and original. But most of what happens after that is completely wasted and convoluted, with vague plot twists that fall through the cracks of a completely unnecessary and completely expendable narrator who is a lot less interesting than the two, arguably three main characters, all of whom have interesting back stories that I would much rather hear first hand accounts of instead of by someone who offers nothing to the proceedings. The story centers on Nelson, a struggling actor at the end of his rope after losing his girlfriend and having his brother move out of the country to America, forcing him to put his dreams on halt to take care of his recently widowed mother. Into this mess comes his hero, rogue theater actor Henry Nunez, who, after a recent stint in jail, is looking to revive the play that got him put there in the first place, The Idiot President, and wants Nelson to play one of the main characters for the tour that he plans to take the show on. Along with the financer and fellow cast member, Patalarga, they take the show on the road, but when they get to a mysterious town that has connections to Henry’s stay in prison, everything falls apart, and puts Nelson on a similar path to damnation that Henry was on. My main problem with this novel is that is told to us by a man who is researching the story, and I felt that completely unneeded. A first person narrative would have been fine, and made a lot of the key plot points a little more clear on detail as well as emotion. It never rises above this giant hindrance, and the ending loses its luster and feels too abrupt. This is too long of a book to give a half-hearted recommendation to, but the first part is still quite dandy.
Rating: 3/5

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