Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll

December 31, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment

This is the only read one book I’ve read so far by Jonathan Carroll, but I’m going to go ahead and make an announcement. I think he’s one of the five best–possibly the best–character writers in the science fiction / fantasy genre today. That may be bold based on reading his first novel, published back in 1990, but my other candidates for the position really only hit their stride in one or two books.

Land of Laughs is a modern fantasy. Many would probably call it magical realism, but fairly or not I associate that with very arch, heavily symbolic, opaque writing and Carroll has written a very intimate and personal narrative. Of the characters that we actually meet there are only three that are important (I make that initial distinction because there are two unseen characters who in the past influenced the three important characters very strongly) and these Carroll draws so well I never detected a single wrong note. I didn’t give the book five stars because the plot is good but not mind-blowing, but the fact I had to think about it really shows how strong Carroll’s writing is. He has an advantage over genre fantasy or SF since his characters live in our world, in our time (actually slightly in the past now due to the book’s age) and he makes the most of it. The characters came to life to the point that if it weren’t for the fantasy aspects of the plot I wouldn’t be sure that it wasn’t a true story, and that is about the highest praise you can give a book of this nature.

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