The cover the The Ferry ManI’m finally getting around to reviewing New York Times Bestseller The Ferryman by Justin Cronin for my Writer’s Book Club and it’s my first negative review. Despite Stephen King’s praise for the novel, this book is a mess.

In June, I wrote, “I’m back to reading and reviewing a dystopian novel with Justin Cronin’s newest book, The Ferryman. I thoroughly enjoyed Cronin’s The Passage Trilogy, so was excited when this book was released. I’m a third of the way through this novel about a disturbing utopia, and I’m torn between wanting to tear through it and wanting to take my time and relish it. It’s really good.”

I’ve since finished reading The Ferry Man. While the first half of the book is good, I can’t believe how awful the second half is. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a book or an author before (with the possible exception of John Grisham–I haven’t been able to finish Grisham’s last three books).


In The Ferryman, Proctor Bennett ferries elderly citizens from the utopian island of Prospera to another island (the Nursery) for processing. Once processed, they return as different, fully-formed sixteen-year-olds. Prosperians have every need met, giving them time to indulge in the creative arts. A third island, the Annex, houses the ordinary workers who service the Prosperians. Proctor is dissatisfied with his life and when he has to ferry his father, he realizes everything is not as it seems.


What I liked about The Ferryman

Cronin’s writing is straightforward and engaging and immediately draws you in. This is exactly what I want in a dystopian novel. The opening premise is intriguing and the main character is well-developed.


Issues I had with the book (beware–there are spoilers)

Okay, here we go. The people in control of Prospera are threatened by Proctor and force him to retire to the Nursery. So far, so good. But when I read about Proctor attempting an escape and (spoiler) succeeding, I was completely lost. I had no idea what was going on. I’ve never been so confused when reading a novel.

I powered through. When I discovered what was really happening, I wanted to throw the book across the room. The confusing and unrealistic scenarios were actually (another spoiler) a dream. In fact, the whole first half of the book is a dream. Yep, Cronin uses this weak plot device–something every school kid has been told not to use because it just pisses off the reader. It certainly pissed me off.


I wanted more (which isn’t really a bad thing)

The reason why everything up to and including the confusing part is (spoiler) a dream is intriguing and has some merit (though there are flaws here, too). If Cronin had hinted throughout the first half of the book that this was a dream, I wouldn’t have felt cheated.


How this has affected my writing

I realized that my grammar school English teachers were right — don’t use cheap plot devices. It’s insulting to the reader and wastes their time. Cronin has lost my trust in him as a writer and, because of this, I doubt I’ll buy any more of his books. I definitely won’t take the easy way out when structuring my books. And, if I do, my editor will take me to task and I’ll remember this book.


The Ferryman gets 👎🏼 for letting me down.


Next month’s book club

The cover of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. According to the book blurb on Amazon: “Sam and Sadie—two college friends, often in love, but never lovers—become creative partners in a dazzling and intricately imagined world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality. It is a love story, but not one you have read before.”



Get your copy of The Devil Particle today!

3-D image of The Devil Particle paperback

“The perfect vessel. . . that’s what Paul wants to become, the vessel that will save humanity from evil. Or does he? Is he truly ready to be the one selected to make the world an evil-free place? Action, adventure, nail biting scenes that keep you at the edge of your seat (and make you wonder if you’ll ever step foot in an elevator again)–The Devil Particle is a dystopian page turner that melds real world themes of loss, loneliness, self-doubt, and longing with a plot that does not quit. Oh, and there is some teenaged love happening, too.” — E. Hayden



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Kristin holding her books


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