Fluttering Thoughts: French Port by Charles Baldwin

French Port

By Charles Baldwin
Editions: ebook, hardcover, paperback
Published June 18th 2011 by Author House
Genre: Thriller / Suspense { Dystopia }
Source: review copy

French Port is dying. Modern medicine has doubled its population. The island’s farmers have harvested its trees to bring more land under cultivation. The sun dries out the top soil and the wind takes it out to sea. The island’s disaster is not only ecological. French Port once exported modest quantities of timber and some potatoes. Now it must import fertilizers, which it can’t afford, just to produce enough food. French Port is going broke. Few people can afford a ticket off the island and most don’t want to go anyway. French Port is home. Edward Warren is a retired, disenchanted, and once removed native son who comes to the island looking for something meaningful to fill an empty life. On property once belonging to his grandmother he discovers an artesian pool capable of solving many of the island’s problems and of making Warren as rich and as important as an island resident can be. Soon he meets an alluring, lonely woman with an ugly past who permits him to board platonically in her home. The American could for once feel socially productive and, for once, he might achieve personal happiness. But, as a newly acquired, cynical friend points out, “people will fight over a turd” They will certainly fight over the water Warren has discovered and owns but, surprising, Warren increasingly finds himself enjoying their conflict. French Port cautions that all associations of people are charged with suppressed hatreds and that nothing triggers violence like an outsider with a little power who means well.
~ Goodreads Blurb

World Building: French Port was built thoroughly, maybe too thoroughly. It starts with its history, and though interesting, it’s not the gripping start that would really hook you. The dystopian world of this island is interesting, but scary and chilling, depending on whether you enjoy that or not, it’s either an awesome thing or not such a cool one.
Characters: Interesting, but I didn’t connect with them at all. I had this odd sensation of watching specimens through a glass, and though they were curious, I didn’t get emotionally involved at all.
Plot: Scary. I’m not much into scary. It’s a third person narrative, with quirky humor and absurd situations, the sort of string of events that I would have enjoyed in my Kafka-ish absurd period, but that’s a long time over for me. The end was sort of funny in a way, it was unexpected. The story wasn’t gripping, I was tempted to drop the read a couple of times, but I stuck through it mainly because it was short and I thought, you know, let’s just see this through if I got this far, you know?
Writing: Cool, both as quality and effect. It didn’t reach me on a personal level enough to get me emotionally involved, the exploration of a degrading society is on principle interesting to me since I’m a sociologist but I have read enough scientific theory on the matter to not become riveted by it, really. The key to enjoying this kind of thing for me is characters and getting emotionally involved with them, and it didn’t happen here at all.
Curb Appeal: Not tempting as a first impression. Blurb is lengthy and not catchy, through the tone of it does reflect the tone of the writing so it’s not false advertising as I have seen happen in some cases. The cover doesn’t say anything to me, really, aside a vague stranded sort of vibe. I’m not into the stranded scenario, so it’s not a sell for me.

All in all, this is a short-ish read at under 200 pages, and if you enjoy some theater of the absurd, sprinkled dry humor and the stranded/dystopia sort of scenario, give it a shot. It wasn’t a good fit for me.

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