The Universe Versus Alex Woods (Goodreads | Amazon) lacked the emotional punch needed to pull off this book. It had an excellent start, throwing us right in the middle of the action with Alex getting arrested crossing the Swiss border, immediately drawing me in and intriguing me. The problem is the rest of the book lacked action. The whole book was exposition, dry and tedious. I understand what it was going for, really I do. The problem was it all felt very much like an info-dump and I never felt emotionally invested in the story.
After the misleadingly exciting beginning, the story really begins with Alex telling us his life story. Fortunately, he decides to skip his birth and starts the day he was hit by a meteorite. Don't get too excited. We don't get to see this, we only get told this in retrospect, partially because Alex doesn't remember the meteorite but mainly because that's how the whole book is told.
That's why I want to start back at the beginning, where the police wouldn't let me start. I'm going to tell you my story, the full story, in the manner I think it should be told. I'm afraid it's not going to be brief.Eventually Alex befriends the local grumpy American, Mr. Peterson. This is the friendship that is supposed to carry the novel, the older man and the young strange boy bonding as village outliers. But the emotional connection was lacking. There are moments that should've made me sad, but they didn't. Everything was always so matter of fact, always told and never shown, that it was hard to drudge up any feelings for the characters.
Other flaws worth nothing, the book spent a ridiculous amount of time with Alex trying to justify using the word "cunt" and everyone trying to explain to him that it wasn't okay. By the conclusion of that 7% section of the book, he concludes that it was justified mainly because he wanted to justify it.
'And that word you used,' Justine added, wrinkling her nose, ' that word really is extremely offensive. Especially to women.' (And from the vehemence in her voice I knew that what was true of women in general was doubly true of lesbians...)If you are a Kurt Vonnegut fanboy, the long sections about his books and their secular Sunday reading club where they read all of his works might appeal to you. For the rest of us, discussing books we may not have read does not add to the story.
This book made me feel so little (aside from gratitude that I was done) that it was hard to muster out a review, almost as hard as it was to pick up the book and continue every day. Overall, it's a great first chapter and then a dull book that gets us back to that first chapter, which isn't worth the trudging middle.
I received an advance reading copy e-book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.