I have just uncovered a vast conspiracy. Remember all those books we had to read in high school English classes? Sometimes they didn’t make sense and when we asked why, we’d be told that the novel was stream-of-consciousness writing and an unreliable narrator, and James Joyce was BRILLIANT and obviously if we didn’t think so, it was our failing as a teenage English student.
Well, it turns out that not all stream-of-consciousness writing is miserable allusions to Irish politics.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is the journal of Christopher Boone, a teenage boy with high-functioning autism, or Asperger’s syndrome. Not that he ever states that — Christopher is the most unreliable narrator imaginable. He tells readers what he considers important, when he thinks of it, with little asides for number problems or mention that he needed to “do groaning” until he felt better.
The chapters are headed by prime numbers, and in case you’ve forgotten about those, Christopher tells you how to find them. His method is to write down every number in the world and then cross off the multiples of two, of three, of four, of five, etc. until you have only the prime numbers left.
Throughout the novel, Christopher is constantly conscious that he is writing a book. Some find this hard to accept in fiction, but I like when the person telling you a story knows it’s a story. Much better than a creepy omniscient narrator who goes head-hopping.
The actual plot is secondary to the amazing narration, and hinges on a few dramatic events — so dramatic that they are soap-opera staples. You’ll only notice this later, since Haddon’s narrator makes the most monumental events extremely believable. I don’t want to give away any more, so here’s the opening:
<align=right> It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.
Final rating: As good as Morrowind.