How Do You Choose What to Read?
(I INTRODUCED this set of book reviews here. This is the 3rd in the series)
The Transmigration of Bodies
Yuri Herrera (set somewhere in Mexico, pub 2016)
Plot Summary: During a killing plague, a fixer is called to solve a dispute between two crime families
Goodreads reviews are to advise other readers whether they want to read the book or not, right? The star system is sometimes a sucky way to do that. Granted, you can usually combine your thoughts (“I hated this book because it was so poorly written I wanted to stab myself with a rusty fountain pen—1 star”) or (“I loved this book because I could survive on a desert island with nothing to eat but its prose—5 stars!”)
I can’t do that with this book. It’s too well done—exquisitely so—for me to give it less than 5 stars. Everything works together—the end-of-the-world plague atmosphere, the use of monikers rather than names, the brevity for the simple plot, the intentional language choice for the sparse telling. There is nothing to criticize.
The question is, given the limited reading time I have, what stories do I want to read? I would not choose one where the male protagonist’s personal life consists solely of a sexual fixation on his neighbor.
Several other Goodreads reviewers have noted how much of this brief book is devoted to sex, but that’s because it is the only part of the protagonist’s personal life we get—not, I don’t think because “the world’s going to end so let’s have at it,” but because he’s been obsessed with her.
If you are weary of stories built around “the male gaze,” The Transmigration of Bodies, no matter how perfectly written and constructed, is a 1 star and not for you.