Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wandering with maps aplenty

Reif Larsen's The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet is certainly ambitious and in some ways, charming.

The book is about 12-year-old T. S. Spivet, a genius cartographer. T. S. maps everything--from the corn he and his sister husk to bugs to yeah, everything.

T. S. lives with his rancher father, his scientist mother and his normal pop-obsessed sister. In this family, no one quite fits. T. S. is certainly no cowboy but instead more of a scientist like his mother. Anyway, a professor friend nominates T. S. for a Smithsonian award, which he wins--but the committee doesn't know he's only 12. Too scared to tell his family about the award, T. S. runs away to Washington, D.C. and has many adventures, etc. (Just a side note on that: in Chicago, T. S. has a rather, um, surprising/violent encounter. It threw off the book for me; it was realistic but just didn't fit with the rest of the novel.)

The book rather meandered. Unless there's a sequel in the works, then we're left with so many open-ended questions: Does his mother discover her species of beetle? What happens to the book his mom is writing? Is T. S. and his father's relationship repaired--but his parents' relationship is now ruined? There's also a bit of magic realism thrown in, which again, is a bit odd for a book so solidly founded on science.

My one big complaint was the lack of resolution on so many fronts. It was one of those endings where I involuntarily spoke out loud "Are you kidding me? THAT'S the end? GAHHH."

Selected Works is different--a bit of a plodding work--definitely not a beach read. But it is beautifully illustrated with maps and sketches, which add to the writing but slow it down. It's worth taking a peek at to see if you'd want to read it. Just be prepared for some randomness scattered in.

Rating: 7/10

No comments: