Book Review: The Book Of Lies By Brad Meltzer (2008)

I almost didn’t write a review for Brad Meltzer’s The Book Of Lies. Not because I disliked the book (quite the opposite), but because I’ve got so much on my plate right now that blogging is definitely taking a back seat. But, I decided to for a few reasons. First off, this blog has become like my pop culture back-up hard drive. If I can’t remember reading a book or watching a movie, it’s a great place to check. Sure, it’s not complete by any means, but it definitely helps. Second, in a purely ego-based move, I wanted to let the world know that I read a book in less than a week which is nearly unheard of for me. And third, I just read a post by a college professor of mine named Rebecca Steinitz over on Literary Mama where she talked about having a ton of books on her plate, but not reading any of them. As anyone who read my struggles with what started as an ambitious summer reading list and spread through to the beginning of this year, I’ve been having the same trouble. After trying to get through Lolita and getting way skeeved out, I just had to quit. I started reading James Bond books, but I like mixing things up, so I decided to jump into some books that are just plain fun. And that brought me to Meltzer’s The Book Of Lies.

This is the third of Meltzer’s books I’ve read, though I discovered him through the world of comics on books like Green Arrow and Identity Crisis. From there I got curious about his novels and picked up The Millionaires which I really dug and The Zero Game which I almost dropped, but kept at it and wound up really enjoying (you can read my review here). Ever since I started hearing about The Book Of Lies which would have been around 2007 or 2008, I’ve been curious. The big hook I kept hearing was that this novel somehow connected the creation of Superman with the first murder in the Bible with Cain killing Abel. The premise sounded so crazy that I was super curious. Of course, I’m also super cheap, so I waited and waited for the book to finally make its way to the cheap table at Barnes & Noble, but eventually there it was. I bought the book, but was knee deep in trying to be literary, so it sat on a shelf for a while. Once I finally gave up on my learnin’ for a bit, this was the first novel I wanted to read. Partially because I was so curious, but also because I knew from past experience that Meltzer has a way of writing that almost forces you to continue on. He’s quick to flip the scripts, keeps things incredibly fluid and also writes wonderfully short chapters. For a slow reader like me, that’s like catnip. Not only do I feel more accomplished, but instead of getting tired out in an attempt to make it to the next chapter, I get revved up the more I passed, like those markers on the highway that tell you how many tenths of a mile you’ve traveled.

And I was right. It took me less than a week to read this book. Suck it Dickens. I wouldn’t say I’m enlightened having read the book, but at least I wasn’t endlessly annoyed like with Great Expectations. So I’ve got that going for me. Anyway, as with the other Meltzer books I’ve read, this one’s about a guy who winds up getting sucked into a world filled with intrigue and mystery. This time around, it’s because he winds up following his long lost dad who’s driving a truck that happens to have a corpse in a secret compartment who was buried with a copy of Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman for you non-comics fans out there). Meanwhile, a killer named Ellis is after them who keeps talking about something called The Book of Lies which may or may not be an actual book, the weapon Cain killed Abel with or some kind of gift granted to Cain for repenting to God after killing his brother. What sets this book apart for me, as far as these kinds of books go–Metlzer reminds me of Dan Brown a lot, though I’ve only ever read The Da Vinci Code–is all the Superman history in the book which turns his original writer Jerry Siegel and his dad Mitchell into characters in the book. Much like Code, Lies takes actual events like Jerry’s dad being murdered (never solved) and Jerry tearing up an earlier version of Superman and puts a conspiratorial nature around them. A large portion of the book is also set in Siegel’s home city of Cleveland which is also where my grandma and mom come from and I always like seeing stories set in places I’m familiar with.

I always get a little leery of stories based on real people, especially when their loved ones are still alive (Jerry’s wife Joanne just passed away last month), but it feels like Metlzer handled this thing well, positing along the way without getting offensive. I haven’t looked around to see if there was any reaction from the Siegel family one way or the others. Anyway, I wound up really liking the book. It really seemed to compel itself along and just took me along for the ride. I’m not quite sure about the ending which does in deed reveal what the Book of Lies actually is, but I kind of like that it’s still kicking around in my head. When absorbing something this quickly, there can be an “on to the next one” type feeling, but I’ve let it marinate a bit and it’s been interesting.

Now that I finished something that I enjoyed, I feel rejuvenated when it comes to reading. I’ve got a lot of books to chose from, from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which I’m honestly not very interested in but was given a copy by my inlaws, to a few Stephen King books I got at a closing-down Borders to pretty much every Nick Hornby book I haven’t read recently coming into my possession to the oral history of punk rock/new wave Please Kill Me, I’ve got a lot to choose from. And those are just the books under my bed. I’ve got a whole Rubbermaid of unread books in our storage unit. Man, why can’t we just download these things into our brains like iPods?

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