Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book 65: No heavy thoughts this time, just a pretty good book.

The Room is a strangely enjoyable book that I picked out entirely 100% because of the cover, then decided to borrow because of the basic description of the book.

The general plot is this: Bjorn is transferred to a new division in the 'authority,' some sort of government branch. In the first couple days at his new job he finds a small, unused but fully furnished office between the elevators and the bathrooms. He starts to spend some of his time in there, only to learn that his coworkers not only claim there is no such room there, but that when Bjorn says he goes there, his coworkers claim Bjorn is just standing motionlessly in the hallway.

From there, the story escalates, as his coworkers insist that the boss stop Bjorn from going to the room, and Bjorn insists that there is a room there and suspects that everyone is conspiring against him.

For most of the beginning of the book, it's set up to make you think Bjorn is perhaps a bit crazy, and that the room is simply in his imagination; but later in the book, Bjorn happens into a larger role at his job and begins staying late to work on reports -- what he does is never exactly identified, and his job appears somehow both meaningless and important at the same time -- and to do these reports, he goes to the room after everyone has left, with the result being the reports are considered brilliant and become the examples for everyone in Bjorn's department to follow, which raises the question of whether Bjorn is right, after all, and there is a room there.

It's an odd book, and Bjorn is an odd character, but the book (told from Bjorn's perspective) is enjoyable and fast, and it's hard not to feel both a little put off by, and a little sorry for, Bjorn, as he tries to make sense of the world, which suddenly feels mysterious and odd to him.

At the very end of the book, the tension and drama take a sudden dramatic upward swing when it's revealed that Bjorn has been going to the room -- he had promised not to -- and Bjorn threatens to quit if he can't use the room, resulting in the whole matter being taken up to the boss upstairs, who has to decide if there is, or is not, a room.

The result of that decision transports the book from enjoyable to memorable, and both answers and does not answer the question of whether the room really exists, or not.  Some reviewers have referred to the book as a fable, which it almost feels like. There's certainly a magical quality to it, from the strange way time seems to pass in the story to the neverending snowfall outside to, of course, the room. It might be the first fable set in a government office.

I probably liked the book more than many people might, because I like stories that require you to resolve them, or which defy easy resolution. (Shameless plug: My book Eclipse has been described as just that, and was purposely set up to make it challenging for a reader to decide exactly what parts of the story happened, and when.)

On a side note, the author, Jonas Karlsson, is a Swedish actor, and apparently a famous one, who also writes books. I noticed the other day that Al Roker was credited with writing a humorous thriller about morning television shows, and both Sweetie and I agreed that it was extremely unlikely that Al Roker did the lion's share of the work on that book. So possibly other countries' books are published based on merit rather than on being attached to a big name? I can't think of a book by a famous American -- at least not an American famous for something other than writing -- that was worth reading.  I'd have to go back and see on this list how many of the books I really found interesting and well done, like this one, were by people who had more than one type of creative job (like Bird Box with the author who was also a musician.)

Anyway, The Room was unlike most other books I'd read, and its unique charms are worth checking out.


Andrew Leon said...

Well, darn you!
Fine, I'll put it on my list, but that doesn't mean I'll ever read it.

Briane Pagel said...

Your list must be about 32 miles long by now. Then again, you read a lot so that's like 3 months for you.

Andrew Leon said...

Not so much lately.
You're doing way better than me!