Posted by: Matt | May 17, 2007

Short Novels, Short Reviews

I must first point out that I was inspired to do this by Gentle Reader over at Shelf Life. As I posted previously, I’ve been reading some short books I recently checked out from the library. I thought I’d throw a couple of reviews together here. This will likely be the first of several combined reviews as I have more short novels on my list.

The Bridge of San Luis ReyThe Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder, is a Pulitzer Prize winning book from 1927. It received wide critical acclaim after it’s publication. After reading it I am not surprised. It is definitely the type of book that literary critics praises. The story begins with an accident, the bridge (of San Luis Rey, of course!) breaks sending five people to their deaths. The rest of the book relates the events leading up to each persons death in the accident. The language in the novel is not flowery, it is not verbose, it is not full of complexity. The story is told in a rather straightforward manner that one can certainly appreciate. However, I was not as enamored as the critics. I never felt much for the characters, this may be because of the brevity of the story, but it makes it difficult to care much about their fate. I suppose there is a reason why I am not a literary critic.

Rating: 3.75

The Stars My DestinationThe Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester, is considered to be a classic Science Fiction novel. If the mention of science and fiction together has not already scared you off, read on. Gully Foyle is abandoned on a wrecked ship in deep space. He uses all of his strength just to survive each day. As he scrounges the ship for supplies he sees another approach slowly as if scanning for life on the wreck. Foyle signals the ship only to have it fly off. From that day on he promises to exact revenge upon those who left him to die. This story has been likened to The Counte of Monte Cristo, but unlike the Alexandre Dumas novel, not much relating to revenge ever really occurs. The end is also a bit confusing leaving the reader with the feeling that something momentous has happened without really understanding what. However, the novel has stood up very well over the years, it was written in the 1950s, but does not feel dated. Although in the end, I was left somewhat disappointed.

Rating: 3.25


  1. I like grabbing short novels every now and again as well. Unfortunately some of the shortest books I’ve read have also been the longest. Ever read “Next Episode” by Hubert Aquin? Yikes.

    I’m soon going to attempt Boris Pasternak’s “The Last Summer”.

    I’ve heard of the first one of these but didn’t know it was short. I’ll have to keep an eye out.

  2. I love scifi but haven’t read the Bester book. I thought at first you were going to give it a rave review. Too bad it wasn’t as good as you had hoped. At least it seems like it was still ok though.

  3. John – I know a lot of people that would say The Heart of Darkness falls into that category of being short but oh so long. I actually liked it thought.

    Stefanie – Sorry I couldn’t give deliver on the rave review. If you haven’t read Hyperion I would suggest that, it is probably the best sci-fi I’ve read this year.

  4. Thanks for the link! And thanks for the reviews–I’ve always wondered about The Bridge of San Luis Rey, because I liked the title and I’ve never read Thornton Wilder. But doesn’t sound like I’ve been missing much…

  5. I haven’t read Hyperion. I think my husband has though. The book is probably around the house somewhere…

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