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Reading the description of this book I could not help but think of The Night Circus, a book I enjoyed very much. The Troupe promises the inner world of Vaudeville, all the odd and the strange, and peppered with mysteries of the other worldly.
What I found surprising is that with (what sounds like) such a good premise for a novel, it is instead only the thin outer crust surrounding the novel, and instead 90% of the prose is mind-numbing dialogue between the characters, who are all one dimensional, grumpy selfish empty shells themselves. If you took a shot for every time a character said "'Why?" after another character spoke you would be under the table by page 20. My biggest gripe is that not much happens in the novel. There is supposedly some big bad supernatural creatures that the troupe is both running from and opposing, but they only show up a few times in the book, and the rest of the time is just the characters in the troupe talking to each other. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue..... I'm sorry but the "he said" she said" drove me crazy, and then our very ignorant rather daft protagonist responding to almost literally everything with "why?". Imagine watching the show Lost if instead of watching the action all you got to see were Jack and Kate and Charlie and the rest of the cast sitting around on the beach just talking to each other about everything. Oh, and if they were all kind of selfish, short-tempered and stupid.
Sadly after my gripes about the content of the book I must say that none of the characters is very likable either. They are hot tempered and reactive and seem to have no substance. George our main character who is supposed to be a 16 year old pianist in search of his father is incredibly selfish and truly stupid. Yes teenagers can be selfish which is fine, but the author does not seem to have any insight into a 16 year old at all. Rather instead George's inner monologue and responses to those around him seem to be more at the level of a 6-8 year old. He seems to have no comprehension of anything around him and dumbly responds to everything with "why?". All I could picture is a toddler in a grocery store pointing at everything asking "what's that?".... "but why?
I think my greatest disappointment in this book is that the premise could have been interesting if done differently. If instead of basically ignoring what is touted as the plot of this novel, it could have actually flushed out the supposed impending danger and had well rounded characters, this could have been interesting. Instead I got stuck just listening to one-dimensional people talk to each other, yack yack yack yack......
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Robert Jackson Bennett's the Troupe is my favorite new audiobook of the year. It called to mind Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, along with Ray Bradbury, and a dash of Stephen King.
Bennett recreates Vaudeville, and imbues it with a sense of magic that feels both historical and fantastical. Here’s some more about the plot: George, a teenage pianist, has been on the Vaudeville circuit for six months searching for his father’s troupe. All he wants is his father’s acceptance, but when he tracks down the players and begins to unravel the secrets Silenus and his companions carry, he’s plunged into a world of danger and magic beyond his wildest dreams. Because Silenus’s shows seem to have an effect on the very world itself, and there are other entities who’d like to bring down the curtain on it once and for all.
All the different members of the troupe are fully fleshed out, and all deliciously complicated. We meet Franny, the strongwoman; Collette, the beautiful singer and dancer; Kingsley, a bizarre puppeteer; and Stanley – Silenus’s mute right hand-man. Finally, there’s Silenus himself – a master showman who claims he’s been alive for centuries. They all have secrets of their own, as well as ambitions, and it’s a delight to spend time with them on the road, and to be surprised by their startling revelations. Knowing what I know now, I can’t wait to go back to it and watch their secrets and twists unfold all over again.
Luis Moreno does a magnificent job of bringing Bennett’s characters to life. I hadn’t heard him read before, and he delivers a subtle reading that manages to give Silenus’s voice a sense of charismatic showmanship, while making George’s a naive, sometimes arrogant teenager, and hits the right notes for all the characters in between. There were a few times in the production where odd pauses fell unexpectedly into the story, which was a little jarring – I’d occasionally look at my iPod to see if it had stopped playing. But all in all, Moreno’s reading is a real treat, and only adds more charm to this already fantastic and riveting story.
The Troupe is a must-listen, a book that will charm, thrill, and give you chills and once it wraps up, you’ll want to do the whole thing all over again.
Originally posted at the AudioBookaneers
2 of 2 people found this review helpful