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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards: A Novel

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards - Kristopher Jansma

[Advance digital copy provided by Penguin's First Flights program]

Kristopher Jansma's debut novel is captivating through the end. It is a breathtaking ride through the world of metafiction and an extremely well thought out story.

The theme of storytelling versus fiction reminds me of what some other authors has tried a hand at of late. Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son and Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth come immediately to mind. But what Jansma accomplishes here is the perfection of the theme. Every word, every lie culminates into a gorgeously rendered story.

Jansma has thought about the subject from so many different angles. He's scoured the halls of literature and history and life in search of the meaning of lies. But the story doesn't become bogged down by all this introspection, in fact it buoys it. The protagonist's thoughts on fiction are what makes this work stand above all the others who tackled the same subject from a distance.

And the details. The rich details that creep up again and again--from checker boards to artificial sweeteners--they are done so skillfully and meaningfully. The superbly woven story, the intricate details, the beautifully rendered sentences--Kristopher Jansma may very well be New Jersey's answer to David Mitchell.

I will say that as I approached the end, as the stories became more and more fantastic, the book became harder to read. I don't think it's any fault of Jansma's, but rather a result of the expectations the book makes in the first half. The first half is rather straight forward, and then it begins to jump all over the board. It worked, and I loved it, but I could see how this would be difficult for some to follow and enjoy as I did.

A masterful debut and an author I will follow. I only hope Jansma chooses to make a more prolific and enduring career than some of his characters have