I should have put more stock in the foreword, where the editor said this novel doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre. Is it literary fiction? A thriller? Espionage? There is no easy answer, because it’s easily all of these. The protagonists are spies, the book opens with an explosion, and the author’s tone throughout makes it clear this isn’t your standard genre novel. It’s something far more compelling. Luckily, the question of how to categorize Equipment didn’t bother me for long. By the time I was a quarter of the way through, I was hooked.
Summarizing the plot of the novel isn’t easy. The narrative goes back and forth between various characters, shifting through time and space to reveal rich interior lives. Some chapters are no more than two or three pages; others are easily five times as long. None, however, are unnecessary. Even those chapters in which little action occurs reveal some new facet of a character. As the foreword says, each character is flawed in his own way, but these flaws weren’t the egregious sort too often seen in modern fiction. Rather than being flawed as a half-hearted attempt to make them more interesting, or just because that’s how characters “should be,” the flaws offer a chance to explore these characters and the world they live in. From isolation to a sense of superiority, the flaws are presented in compelling, three-dimensional ways.
Some might have noticed that I specified “his” own way when mentioning the characters. That was no oversight on my part. The vast majority of the characters in this book are men, and the women offer little to the narrative. I wouldn’t say they’re inconsequential, but the book is very firmly male-focused, and various descriptions (including a very memorable one of the Saint Louis Arch) reinforce that. This is not entirely to the book’s detriment, but it may slightly alienate some readers.
Again I must turn to the foreword, where the editor says the book is like jazz. It’s an apt description. Like jazz, the book is experimental. Sometimes the melody (in this case, the plot) takes the focus; other times the sound of the words predominates. Also like jazz, the book will not be to everyone’s taste. While I appreciated both what the author was doing and the bits of subtle banter tossed into the dialogue, Equipment is not the sort of novel I would ordinarily be drawn to. I do know plenty who would, however, which is why I am happy to give this book four stars.
|Page Count||296 pages|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Mystery, Crime, Thriller|