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Gods of Aberdeen: A Novel Paperback – July 27, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I didn't want to like this book. I wanted to snicker at what I believed was an obvious riding-of-the-coattails. "Rule of Four," "Prep," you name it, it's already been done, right? And then I opened the first page...and Nathan had me at "I remember Aberdeen College well."
Call me a sucker for good prose. Call me easily seduced by brutally honest portayals of spoiled youth. Call me a fan of writers who take a subject (in this case, alchemy) I know absolutely *nothing* about, and by the end of their book I feel like an expert.
Yes, this book is about the search for the Philosopher's Stone. But to place it in the category of an academic mystery would be a mistake. The Philosopher's Stone is Nathan's MacGuffin, a plot device used to show us the loss of innocence of 16 year-old Eric Dunne, a freshman at Aberdeen College. Eric's a poor orphan from New Jersey, and Aberdeen College is an ivy-covered liberal arts college in Connecticut. There's a mysterious death, a quest for the ultimate truth, and along the way Eric grows up. We grow up with him.
Alchemy is about transformation, which mirrors the central theme of this book. Eric Dunne arrives at Aberdeen College, and leaves an adult. He's heartbroken, lied to, given booze and drugs and basicallly everything else that happens to naive freshman, and we're with him all the way. Damn if this book didn't make me miss college...and also realize I'm glad college is over.
So where do I place this book among my literary faves? Surprisingly high, considering it's a debut novel from a young author. Nathan's descriptions can be a bit much at times, and the first third of the novel moves slowly, but we are rewarded for our patience. You can see Nathan becoming a more confident writer (especially Part II), and as Nathan's skills grow, so does Eric Dunne.
I'm hesitant to call this book my favorite beach read of the summer, because it's more than that. It's not light reading, nor is it dense, overstuffed prose. It's quite unlike anything I've ever read before...call it Umberto Eco with a plot we can actually all relate to. Or call it a beach book for the intelligent reader. Either way, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. And watch out for dark ponds.
The interesting thing about this book is the checklist of typical themes presented in a fresh manner. Kirkus said this book makes its cliches sing together in beautiful unison, and I agree. Loss of sexual innocence? Check. Betrayal? Check. Socioeconomic divisions played out on a fancy-pants college setting? Check. Nathan didn't bore me, as I feared. Instead he took risks with well-travelled genre material, and in my opinion, his risk paid off.
So what we have here is a young, orphaned boy far more intelligent than emotionally secure, sucked into a group of other smarties at a New England college, searching for the secret to immortality. Said secret takes the form of an ancient manuscript(s), and their search for said secret occupies half the novel. The other half is occupied by the young boy's coming of age. He parties, has sex, gets confused, and makes some terrible decisions. Like I said, on paper not the most intriguing (or original) concept, but Nathan pulls it off.
I suspect some of the negative reactions to Nathan's book is a response to his uncomfortable (but nevertheless intriguing) subplot of sexual ambiguity between male friends, along with threads of sexual abuse that silently wind throughout the novel. Again, not your usual topics for a coming-of-ager, and with these sort of risks come the inevitable backlash. But what's that old saying...better to be looked over than overlooked. Nathan's writing evokes strong emotions, and I hope his next tale forges its own genre path.