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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund
Gather the Daughters: A Novel
Jennie Melamed

In the Shadow of the Cypress

In the Shadow of the Cypress - Thomas Steinbeck For some reason, I have dragged my feet on writing this review. It's been a while, and the book wasn't incredibly memorable in the first place, so I doubt this review will have much relevance. Regardless, here it is...I promised myself I wouldn't mention John Steinbeck in this review. The work of Thomas Steinbeck should stand on its own; even mentioning that he is his father's son seems unnecessary and insulting to the work of Thomas. Well, I lied.It's hard not to think of John when Thomas' characters and situations continually remind us of his father. A marine biologist. Stanford. Just pull ten random words from a Steinbeck biography and you'll likely find one or two which apply to In the Shadow of the Cypress. And frankly, it's an unfair comparison. Nonetheless, it's what one should expect being the son of a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author (or writer since Steinbeck didn't consider himself as an "author").In the Shadow of the Cypress does fairly well when it comes to story. Although it is a bit slow, it carries its own as an intriguing historical mystery. Steinbeck shows that he knows his subject matter well and presents it in an interesting and unique fashion. What Steinbeck doesn't know, however, is his characters. I couldn't understand them, nor did I really want to. They were dry. What personality they did have didn't make sense--am I just stereotyping when I say I didn't find Charles Lucas' concern over a surfboard believable? Charles Lucas, PhD student and holder of one of the world's most historically significant artifacts, just wants to find "the perfect wave." Some of the best character moments happen after Lucas meets Robert Wu and the two develop a friendship which is believable and funny at times. Unfortunately, it doesn't last. Once Wu's father is brought into the picture, the relationship takes a back seat for no particular reason and the novel becomes bland once again.Thomas Steinbeck might do okay as an author if he is marketed to the right audience. Fans of plot-driven historical mysteries may love his books--I don't know as I am not one of those "fans". As long as he is marketed as being THE SON OF JOHN STEINBECK, however, Thomas Steinbeck will be in the shadow of his own cypress; rather, he'll live in the shadow of the Giant Sequoia that was his father.(On a side note, writing this review has put me in the mood to reread "To a God Unknown").