Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Faculty Club, by Danny Tobey

So, yesterday I decided to indulge in some literary junk-food.  And I don’t mean to use that term pejoratively to describe my latest read, merely to put it in context: I’ve been reading a lot of classics and books that appear on ‘must-read’ lists lately, so was ready for something a little more modern and engaging, and boy did I ever find it with Danny Tobey’s The Faculty Club.

Two things drew me to the work: it’s set in academia and the main plot revolves around a secretive faculty/student club.  I enjoyed my time in University, so I enjoy reading about situations that remind me of it.  True, I didn’t get into a prestigious Ivy League law school like the main character, Jeremy Davis, but the author does a great job with setting the stage in terms of location and surrounding characters – the (always unnamed) university campus, the fellow classmates, and the eclectic professors all ring horribly true for someone who spent six years in an ivory tower.  One of the best scenes which incorporates all of the above is a mock-trail that Jeremy participates in as the prosecution.  Tobey’s writing was engaging and never lagged.

The other interesting dynamic, the mysterious club, also drew me in.  Children of the 90s will recognize the theme from that movie with Pacey from Dawson’s Creek about the Skull and Bones club.  Tobey does a good job designing this secretive world, but could have spent some more time developing Jeremy’s character to explain why he wanted in so badly; it seemed as if the reasons were so obvious that Tobey felt he didn’t need to use the ink to describe them.  In some ways, I can understand the author’s decision to gloss over his character’s desire, but the work would have been stronger had he spent more time fleshing out his character.  As for the composition and rational behind the club, I’ll let readers discover that for themselves….

Now we come to the part I wasn’t thrilled with.  Unfortunately, I can’t talk too much about it here without ruining the ending, and that’s something I never want to do.  In the third act, Tobey zigs left when he was all set to zag right: had he gone right no one would have blamed him and it might have made the work stronger.  By going left, he departs from the expected and it weakens the work – the unexpected was unnecessary and over-the-top.  Vague, I know, but you’ll have to read it to figure out what the hell I’m talking about.  There is an interesting question raised in this third act, however: is the fate of faceless millions more important than the fate of a known few?  I had to confront something about myself with that one: I think I’m going to have to give the answer you are apparently never supposed to give and say the faceless millions are more important.  In the end, I had some sympathy for the protagonist, which took the wind out of the ending for me.

This book reminded me a lot of The Rule of Four by Ian Cadwell.  It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember it as being set in an institution of higher learning, and centered around mysterious doings in steam tunnels (there are always steam tunnels).  If you enjoyed one, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the other.  I don’t recommend a back-to-back reading though, or else you’ll spend all your time comparing the two.

All in all, I good book and a great read!  I needed to step away from the stuffy books I’ve been reading lately and step into something fun, and The Faculty Club did it for me.  The hard cover was priced at $30, but I got it on sale for $5.  I don’t recommend paying full price (it is only a four-hour read, after all), but pick it up on discount or e-book and you’re all set.

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