Rating: 3.3 out of 5
Michael Crane is an author with a wicked sense of humor. Just from reading his drabble collections (Lessons and Lessons II), you can easily see his sarcastic wit and ability to transform threatening, potentially harmful situations into a form of dark comedy. He’s gifted in turning a phrase and uses an economy of words to get his point across. In short, I think he’s brilliant.
When I purchased A Gnome Problem, his novelette, I expected much of the same, only in a wider format. And I wasn’t disappointed in that. The story follows the adventures of Pat, a pathetic down-and-outer, after he receives a panicked phone call from his buddy Spencer, who goes on to explain that he’s being tormented by gnomes. Garden gnomes. See? Already it’s hilarious.
Pat heads out to Spencer’s house, confronts his friend, thinks he’s just nuts, and then, when he discovers there really are gnomes attacking his friend, goes about trying to solve the problem.
That’s as much as I’ll give you for plot, since this is a short piece and revealing any more would be tantamount to full disclosure. And the story does work. It made me laugh multiple times, especially when Pat starts getting irritated when no one involved will listen to his advice.
And yet this is where I ran into problems with the tale. Pat, as a character, is a bit flat. Yes he’s funny, yes his quips are delivered with aplomb…but there doesn’t seem to be anything beyond that. The running plot about his girlfriend leaving him did nothing for me, and I couldn’t help but think that if the story had been written in third person instead of first, it might have come off much, much better. As it is, he’s an unreliable narrator in a tale that needs a reliable one.
Also, the ending really rubbed me the wrong way. When it finished I said, ”What…really?” Not that the conclusion is bad by any means. It isn’t. But it felt unsatisfying, as if the author had too many ideas in his head and couldn’t figure out how to use them all, so he used the simplest version he could think of. Not to be cruel, but that’s what the end felt like. A cop-out. There were so many different places the author could’ve taken it in either direction, darker or more hilarious. It demanded to be expanded upon, to be more fleshed out. But alas, it didn’t happen.
Now, of course, I can in no way state that this is a bad story. It’s not at all. I did genuinely enjoy myself, just not as much as I thought I should. Crane has oodles of ability, and I really enjoy reading his prose. If anything, the poor rating has more to do with my high opinion of his talent, with my expectation for what he produces, than anything. And I simply don’t think this tale stood as tall as it could have…ne, should have.
That being said, I would still recommend this novelette and not feel the slightest bit bad about doing so. You’ll end up laughing and cringing more than once, and by the end, I think you’ll want more more more. Because if A Gnome Problem does nothing else, it serves to demonstrate how well Crane can tell a story. He most certainly has the potential to be great. If you’re like me, you’re rooting for his next offering to fully deliver on that potential.
Plot - 8
Characters - 5
Voice - 9
Execution - 5
Personal Enjoyment – 6
Overall – 33/50 (3.3/5)
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