Book Review

Lev Grossman’s WARP

grossman-lev-warp-coverTitle: Warp
Author: Lev Grossman
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press
Date Available: September 20, 2016
Dates Read: September 15-20, 2016
Rating: 2 ½ stars

 “‘What if warp is more like water? Maybe you need to run the engine all the time, just like a ship needs its propeller going all the time, to fight against the resistance of the water. See what I’m saying? Maybe there’s resistance, and you have to keep pushing all the time, or you just slow down and stop. What if warp isn’t all just coasting about all the time?’”

Lev Grossman’s Warp is a story about Hollis and his friends: a group of guys in their twenties who are waiting for life to start. As a graduate student in her mid-twenties, I felt that I would be able to relate to this book. Although I am pursuing a graduate degree, I don’t know where my life will eventually lead. I feel like I am in a perpetual state of indecision: of where I want to go, of what I want to do, of who I want to be. I feel like my life hasn’t actually started yet, and it’s a feeling that I’ve always had. It’s the feeling of acknowledging a future goal without appreciating the present, of always wanting something more than what you have – or of wanting what someone else has. So on that level, I felt like I would be able to relate to Hollis and his gang of guys hanging around Boston, all in this weird state of flux that I can most definitely relate to.

Even Lev Grossman related to it. Although it did not fare well commercially the first time around, when it was originally published in 1998, the author still had a soft spot for his book.

grossman-lev-author
Lev Grossman

“…I remembered why I worked so hard on it in the first place, and why I was so proud of it. Warp is a careful, orderly portrait of a group of people at the most chaotic, desperately lost time in their lives. It brought it all back to me, the whole terrible authentic texture of that moment: the cheap booze, the black humor, the nameless longings, the alienation, the total poverty, the wasted days, the wasted nights, the circular conversations, the payphones and old-school video games and pre-grunge alt-rock, and the total conviction that the world was worthless and that everything important happened elsewhere, in fiction and fantasy and dreams and unreal nowhere-places that didn’t exist and meant nothing.”

Sorry, Lev Grossman, but I don’t agree.

For my personal categorization, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye falls into the category of i-can’t-really-stand-this-book-even-though-everyone-else-seems-to-love-it. Even though this book is considered a classic bildungsroman, I never really got into it, mainly because of the main protagonist Holden Caulfield. Quite frankly, he got under my skin – in more ways than one. But at least I walked away from Salinger’s book with the knowledge that it was really well-written, despite all of it’s short-comings. If you are interested in my full review of this on Goodreads from October 2012, please click here.

While superficially I am quick to compare Warp to The Catcher in the Rye, I don’t know if that’s completely fair. Both books were relatively short with main protagonists that I felt a similar level of derision toward. But I feel like something at least happened in The Catcher in the Rye. Contrary to that, I feel like nothing actually happened in Warp.

To be honest, I was expecting Warp to be so much different than what it actually was. I expected magic. I expected intrigue. I expected…something. I was excited to read it because I was a fan of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy (The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land). Did The Magicians trilogy have its own set of flaws? Absolutely. Including, but not limited to, a pretentious and annoying male protagonist. BUT it was interesting and enjoyable. It was more developed and thought-out. The characters developed from pretentious young adults to slightly-less-pretentious older adults, and they were characters that were endearing and relatable.

So, the reason I didn’t like Warp could have just been that it lacked development: it was definitely lacking in plot, characterization, and personalities that would render the characters at least somewhat relatable to the readers. The only semblance of plot could be attributed to the determination and drive – terms I use lightly to describe these characters – of Hollis and Peters to “borrow” a family friend’s house for a week while they were on vacation by breaking into their house before they left, stealing their keys, and waiting for them to leave so they could enjoy the high life without any of the actual work that goes into earning it. I thought the whole idea was so pretentious, and I couldn’t get over the lack of any type of personality that would make me sympathize with these characters. Toward the end, while relaxing, they noted:

“‘Who would have thought that doing nothing all the time would turn out to be so damn tiring?’”

What, indeed?

The last thing I wanted to mention was Hollis’s mental ruminations throughout the entirety of the book. I thought they were more distracting than anything, though I think the author (and by extension, Hollis) tried to show they he/they were very deep, especially by dropping a multitude of literary references, most notably from Star Trek. It was a way of merging the stream-of-conscious narration with a more linear narration, possibly. I just didn’t get it, and I don’t think it added anything to the story.

I feel like Warp tried to be more than it was – a story of twentysomethings trying to figure out their lives and shortcomings – but failed.

To me, this book was a solid 2 to 2 ½ stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this eBook.

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