The Lightning Keeper

Starling Lawrence’s The Lightning Keeper didn’t make me want to keep reading. I think I learned of it through the NYTimes Book Review, which inspired me to buy, and it sat on my shelf for a while, where it should have been entombed.

The plot, reduced to its most basic form, is Romeo & Juliet sans beauty in language or any action: Boy and Girl can’t get together due to social circumstances, complications ensue, etc. I assume there’s no suicide at the end, but because I read about a fifth of the book I can’t make any promises. It’s so slow a book that I kept hoping M would call Toma and dispatch him behind the Iron Curtain, James Bond-style. Granted, the Iron Curtain hadn’t yet gone up, but then reality never bothered Ian Fleming much.

I went in without particularly high expectations, but The Lightning Keeper couldn’t even rise to meet them.


“Some complain that e-mail is impersonal—that your contact with me, during the e-mail phase of our relationship, was mediated by wires and screens and cables. Some would say that’s not as good as conversing face-to-face. And yet our seeing of things is always mediated by corneas, retinas, optic nerves, and some neural machinery that takes the information from the optic nerve and propagates it into our minds. So, is looking at words on a screen so very much inferior?… Whereas, when you see someone with your eyes, you forget about the distortions and imagine you are experiencing them purely and immediately.”

—Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

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