600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster
A departure from my usual fare of romance and YA, I decided to take a gamble on something a little different, and it paid off. I thought this was a great book – perhaps not enough action for those who like action-packed books, perhaps a little repetitive if you hate repetition, but it works.
Meet Edward. In his own words, “age 39″ and “I keep track of the weather and I like to watch Dragnet.” He suffers from Asperger’s and OCD, which manages to be a focal point without being scientific, pathetic or ‘come on, feel sorry for him, don’t you feel sorry for him?’
Instead it takes the direction of being heartwarming without being excessive. Told in the first person, it’s a unique look into what life is like for someone like him over 600 hours in which he starts to get out of the rut he realizes he’s in – not so much that he’s fine by the end, just enough that you notice some progress.
The small cast of characters is both understandable – and of those, only three are new people that Edward meets – and well written. The new neighbour, wary single mother confused about his mixed signals, the attempt at online dating, Edward’s parents and, of course, the villain of the piece who you could argue is only doing his job but is still evil enough to get the mild-mannered, logical Edward using the word “hate.”
If you dislike repetition, you may dislike how formulaic the format of each chapter is, or the repetition of certain phrases and scenes, but it does make sense given his conditions. The technique is also cleverly used as a way to signal the changes that Edward eventually makes, as towards the end the reliable routine starts to change and he finally doesn’t follow the routine quite as rigidly – less slavish to it, to use his words.
Edward spent many years writing letters, mostly of complaint. In that spirit, I’m going to write one – except it’s going to be one of praise to the author. Who’s probably never going to see it, but Edward never sent his either. I’ll try and keep it spoiler free, but if you don’t want any more information than I’ve already given, then stop here.
Except I will mention that there’s a sequel, Edward Adrift, due out on April 9th.
Dear Mr Lancaster,
You’re the Garth Brooks of writing! My next letter will be a strongly worded letter to your publisher asking how they could have published such a book, and it will be sent.
I’m joking, of course. I thought it was a great book. I took a gamble on trying something different (I think Edward would be proud) and I’m glad I did. It was a good story, told in an effective way and I know if I’d seen it as a film it would have left me in buckets (I love the phrase “in buckets.”) Not that the book wasn’t just as touching, but I read in bed and crying before trying to go to sleep isn’t the best thing to do. It’s only logical.
There was a piece on the radio a couple of days after I started reading it talking about scary books – it was referring to horror stories and nasty creatures, but this was a different kind of scary for me. I saw an Amazon review by a parent with a son with Asperger’s who said it’s realistic and it was worrying how similar I am to Edward, especially after finding out that people used to wonder if I was autistic.
I thought the characters were well written; Donna’s wariness, the parents’ difficulty in dealing with it (and redemption), and of course the villain working at the aptly-named firm. And of course, Kyle seemed like a great kid and his relationship with Edward – complete with Donna not being immediately comfortable with it – was well done.
The repetition, and the subsequent (I love the word “subsequent”) lessening of it worked effectively as a way to show that he was finally making some progress – although I’ll admit to glossing over the bits about when Dragnet episodes were originally aired – without falling into the trap of having some magical fix by the end that left him fine.
I also noticed the easter egg (I’m going to assume it was intentional) that Edward got the number of October 30th wrong – 303 instead of 304. Even those with OCD can get flustered when woken up that dramatically ;)
Then I got to the end of it, and found a couple more nice surprises! First, the sequel. Any chance you’re still looking for beta readers for it? I volunteer as a beta and then I could write an ARC review on here… granted, I have as many readers as Edward does friends, but I have to try.
Then your bio – I studied journalism at university and I participate in National Novel Writing Month! Except mine are either unfinished or edited but no attempts to publish… still, was an interesting fact.
One last thing: do you know how many letters Edward wrote? I understand why he didn’t count them, and that’s great for him, but it’s bothering me!
As of this book, your fan,