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Review-a-Day
The Morning News
Sunday, March 21st, 2010
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Big Machine

by Victor La Valle

ToB: Big Machine vs. The Year of the Flood

A review by Tournament of Books

Powell's Books and The Morning News present the 2010 Tournament of Books

The annual NCAA-style battle between literary titans rages on! There are some serious contenders this year, including The Lacuna, Wolf Hall and The Year of the Flood. Review-a-Day is bringing you a week at a glance -- every Sunday through March. Tune in each week for our featured battle, see how your favorites fared and catch up with fun commentary and other tidbits from The Morning News.

Another week has passed and we have made it to the end of the opening round with some truly exciting results.



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This Week's Featured Battle


Battle Date: March 18, 2010

__________

Big Machine, by Victor LaValle
VS.
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

__________

Judged by
Kate Ortega




I raced through The Year of the Flood. Absolutely gobbled it up. I have read one or two others of Atwood's books, and while I knew going in that her interests and mine do not always intersect, I was surprised at how gripped I was by the story, a romp through an endangered future world with a small group of zealous environmentalists, members of a sort of cult called God's Gardeners. With the corporate and government worlds melded into a sort of Big Brother, intent in its gene-splicing experiments, the Gardeners' leader is predicting a catastrophe along the lines of Noah's flood as God attempts to purge the earth, yet again, of man gone wrong.

So when it came time to turn to Big Machine, I was worried, for LaValle's sake. But let it be said: This man doesn't need anyone to worry about him.

In Big Machine, Ricky Rice, an early-middle-aged black man with a checkered past, tells the story of how, one day, he received an anonymous free bus ticket to Vermont, decided to take it, and then fell into a sort of rabbit hole where God was, perhaps, a voice emanating from a cave, scholars spent their days clipping articles from newspapers, and homeless men were being organized to stage a massive attack on society. It is a crazy story, and throughout, Ricky Rice thinks it's just as crazy as you do.

Both books have an otherworldly quality to them, and both delve deeply into religion and beliefs about self-sufficiency and fate. The Year of the Flood alternates points of view; about half is the third-person story of a middle-aged woman who spent much of her adult life as one of the Gardeners, and the other half is told in first person by a young woman who spent her childhood with the Gardeners. But I wasn't racing through the book because of its writing; the third-person parts are good, but the voice of the younger narrator, in my eyes, falls flat.

(Read the entire review by Kate Ortega)

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Winner: Big Machine


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Additional match-ups from this past week:



Your Tournament of Books Quarterfinalists!



March 22, Alex Balk

__________

Let the Great World Spin
VS.
The Help
__________






March 23, Jane Ciabattari

__________

The Lacuna
VS.
Burnt Shadows
__________






March 24, Meave Gallagher

__________

Wolf Hall
VS.
The Anthologist
__________






March 25, Carolyn Kellogg

__________

The Book of Night Women
VS.
Big Machine
__________





The RoosterIt's that time of year again for the Tournament of Books, the annual NCAA-style battle between literary titans from online magazine The Morning News. You can print a bracket, keep track of the standings, and read all of the judges' reviews at TMN's website. You'll save 30% on all the tourney books when you purchase them from Powells.com. May the best book win!
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