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Good idea, poor "execution"
on November 11, 2007
I've read a couple of outstanding novels by O'Nan ("The Night Country," "Prayer for Dying"), so I was sort of looking forward to this one. Sort of? Well, I'll admit, I was a little worried since the story, without having read it, sounded a lot like "Badlands." I wondered, before going in, if this was just a reworking of what has become an American story where a young couple of social misfits go out in a bloody blaze of gunfire and weird love. If only the Speed Queen had of had that kind of narrative coherence going for it!
The Speed Queen fails on a number of levels. Even its unique Stephen King is-writing-my-story twist wears on you after a bit. By novel's end, it's a stale gimmick. The novel is all bits and pieces of a story. By themselves, these bits and pieces are interesting. Dialogue and descriptive passages are often dead-on, which makes this novel such a frustrating read. Oh, the possibilities! Marjorie drinks a lot, though it's never really clear why. Her parents were pretty kinky, but can you trust her, since she has her own sex toy issues? Like a lot of death row types, she's found Jesus on the eve of her state mandated destruction. She's discovers she's bisexual, after a short stint in prison. She loves her kid, she does speed. She kills -- reluctantly, though reading in-between the lines, you doubt that. What a mess! So yes, you have "Badlands," a bit of "In Cold Blood," and neither of those stories' cold-hearted integrity. The book is dedicated to Stephen King. He deserved better.